AI Opens New Frontiers in Finance

By: Alison Fromme

Artificial intelligence has the potential to transform finance, according to a panel of experts at the conference, “Deeply Responsible Leadership: Harnessing AI For the Great Good,” hosted by the SC Johnson College of Business, the University of Oxford Saïd School of Business, and the Cornell Club of the United Kingdom at the Peninsula Hotel in London on March 15.

Andrew Karolyi, Charles Field Knight Dean of the SC Johnson College of Business, moderated a panel discussion focusing on specific finance use cases, now and in the future.

Stylized illustration of a computer chip, in red.

Mani Sethuraman, assistant professor of accounting at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, explained how artificial intelligence has changed the very nature of what we consider data.

“For the longest time, we’ve been relying on numbers, financial statements, and quantitative information, but over the last decade or two, the amount of qualitative information about firms has been increasing exponentially,” Sethuraman said. “We didn’t have the tools to analyze qualitative information. So we could only look at things that we could measure. But with AI and [machine learning], we are now adequately equipped to process the highest amounts of information to better understand firms, and I think that is very, very exciting.”

Cat Hines, partner at Ernst & Young, LLP, said that companies are constantly asking how they can improve the customer experience across the customer lifecycle. But organizations have struggled to absorb and process large quantities of data, generate insights, make business decisions, and engage customers.

Now AI can help. Not just in customer experience, but across many areas, increasing productivity, personalizing offerings, and coaching employees. The industry is also noticing that more consumers manage their own investments with AI tools.

Mani Sethuraman sits in a chair on stage holding a notebook.
Mani Sethuraman, assistant professor, Johnson School (Photo by David Prior/Navy Studios)

Karolyi, along with Sethuraman, Hines, and Raghavendra Rau, Sir Evelyn de Rothschild Professor of Finance at the Cambridge Judge Business School, discussed wide-ranging issues, from the accuracy of data and the importance of using the right data to avoiding biased models and addressing security risks. Demonstrating improved customer outcomes, ensuring compliance with evolving regulations, and whether AI could prevent future financial crashes were also on the table.

Every speaker qualified their excitement for artificial intelligence with the need for caution.

“The tools can be useful,” said Hines. “But, it’s really important that we’ve got the right humans to design the tools, understand what we’re delivering, and move that forward.”

Sethuraman said, “Needless to say, with great power comes great responsibility. Given the complexity and the fast-paced evolution of such modern technologies, it is important that we pay close attention to both their strengths as well as their limitations. Researchers and practitioners alike should exercise due diligence in order to ensure that such technologies are utilized in a responsible manner to promote the proliferation of information and not disinformation.”

This article is part of a series:
Part 1: AI Will Revolutionize Business, Business Education, and Democracy

Part 2: Artificial Intelligence Could Soon Make Management Decisions
Part 3: AI Opens New Frontiers in Finance