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Domestic financial firm leverages AI to boost business

By Lia Zhu in San Francisco | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-25 10:26
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Ever wonder about the connection between girls in tight jeans and cracked phone screens?

A Chinese financial services company found, through data analysis, that young girls who like tight jeans replace their phone screens more frequently than other people. It then launched "screen insurance" targeting that demographic.

That's just one of many examples illustrating how artificial intelligence is transforming the financial industry, and Ant Financial, Alibaba Group's financial affiliate, is trying to utilize AI technologies to target individuals and small businesses.

"AI is ubiquitous, like water. It's like nutrition to business development," said Alan Qi, vice-president and chief data scientist at Ant Financial.

"In today's financial services sector, it supports key businesses, like payment experience and anti-fraud," he said.

The company, which operates the popular mobile-payment service Alipay in China, launched its "intelligent assistant" this month. The voice-recognition system enables users to buy airline tickets and book hotels by using their voice.

Smart customer service, a system launched in 2015 for automated customer calls, has recently surpassed human performance in terms of customer satisfaction, according to Qi.

AI is an important technology that generates value from data, Qi said. The company has also utilized machine-learning technology (a segment of AI based on the principle that given enough training data, machines can learn to recognize images themselves) to launch an image-recognition system that can aid in vehicle insurance claims.

The AI damage-assessment system allows users to take a photo of the vehicle's exterior damage with their smartphones and send it to the insurance company. The system will then enable the insurance company to assess the extent of the damage, and list nearby repair shops and their different prices to fix the damage.

Exterior damage claims comprise about 60 percent of the 45 million private vehicle insurance claims filed in China each year, according to Ant Financial.

"The purpose is to use technology to help the financial industry increase efficiency, reduce costs and control risk," Qi said.

Last week, the company hosted a technology conference in Silicon Valley, gathering hundreds of industry professionals and academic experts to explore AI innovations in the financial services sector.

The company's approach is to bring equal opportunities to the "little guys" and "underserved" that lack access to conventional financial services, Qi said.

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