Trees, Forests, and Jungles of Artificial Intelligence for Financial Services

Trees, Forests, and Jungles of Artificial Intelligence for Financial Services

The Financial Services Industry is undergoing more upheaval than any other industry; be it regulation, changes in consumer behaviour, changes in distribution channels or increasing threats from a number of disruptive new-age competitors. Today Financial Services expects more disruptions accelerating from the consumers demanding highly connected and personalised services. While the Financial Services industry has historically been a laggard in innovation, these disruptive forces have attracted major transformation agenda’s.

AI Adoption

At the heart of such disruptive forces of technology transformation is Artificial Intelligence. Today Artificial Intelligence is widely used to maximise business value, create superior customer engagement, identify insights that matter as well as steer Financial Services into whitespaces among others. With fascinating feats of success, artificial intelligence is increasingly being used for personalised pricing, product recommendations, expediting claims, enhancing customer experience or simply predictive and transformational innovations. Financial Services Institutions are discreetly weaving AI across the organisation’s DNA.

However, Financial Services Institutions often take a pragmatic approach when it comes to sprinkling Artificial Intelligence. As the industry flexes its muscles to get ahead in the evolving landscape of Artificial Intelligence, here are some key best practices I would recommend to any Financial Services Institutions:

My Best Practice Recommendations

1. Start-off with clear business benefits whether it`s an opportunity for growth or solving a specific problem, always keeping the customer in mind.

2. Zero-in specific areas of business where data is plentiful, enough for machine learning algorithms to produce acceptable levels of accuracy for business interpretations.

3. Integration with back-end infrastructure for seamless data flow with core transactional processing systems particularly for customer accounts and history.

4. Choose tools and utilities wisely as there myriads of options for storage, processing, analysis and visualisation of data science environments as well as computing power.

5. Establish clear rules for human escalation especially for overly complex situations, sensitive information or simple detection of frustration with rules-based agents from the part of customer.

6. The answer to “best algorithm to use” is often “It depends”. Even the most experienced data scientists can`t tell prior to applying the algorithms to the dataset. Often it`s a balanced choice between accuracy, linearity, training time, number of features and interpretability. The only sure way to find the very best algorithm is to try combinations of flavours – supervised, un- supervised, reinforcement learning or deep learning.

7. Operationalise AI models or workflows across different digital domains with API to scale the retraining and consumptions of models.

One final piece is perhaps to let machines do what they do best –mathematical equations and algorithms. As leaders of our organisations, we should remain razor-focussed on common business sense and successful business posture of Artificial Intelligence investments.


Harphajan is speaking at the Chief Data & Analytics Officer Singapore, taking place on the 25-26th July. For more information visit:


About Me

Harphajan is the Chief Data Officer at AXA Malaysia, a subsidiary of the Paris-headquartered AXA Group, a worldwide leader in financial protection strategies and wealth management.

Being an Innovation Evangelist, Harphajan is a well-established expert in leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Data Science in pioneering strategic growth across financial services. Harphajan’s deep expertise and passion for data and innovations are the centre stage of his Artificial Intelligence journey, leading some of the industry’s disruptive engagements in the space of connected cars, connected homes, connected health, on-demand insurance, sharing economy and peer-to-peer insurance.

An avid contributor to the industry’s adoption of FinTech and InsurTech technologies, Harphajan is actively involved in identification, incubation and road-mapping of emerging technologies advancements in Financial Services particularly around connected IoT devices, autonomous vehicles, drones, wearable’s and blockchains

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Views expressed are solely my own and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer and should not be seen as an endorsement of any group, product or strategy.


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