IBM's Supercomputer Makes A Big Splash In Banking, Leading Advisors To Ponder What They Can Do That Machines Can't

Wednesday, March 07, 2012 10:00
IBM's Supercomputer Makes A Big Splash In Banking, Leading Advisors To Ponder What They Can Do That Machines Can't

Tags: advisor technology

Friends in the portfolio management space keep forwarding me the story on how IBM's Jeopardy-winning supercomputer Watson is coming to Wall Street to perform certain types of service.

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As yet, Watson seems to be rolling out purely on the analytics front. The computer will crunch account information in order to "help analyze customer needs and process financial, economic, and client data to advance and personalize digital banking."


In other words, banks like Citi are going to use Watson as a souped-up underwriting engine to augment their existing quantitative systems, along with a bit of CRM to automatically recommend products and services.


Looming adaptations of Watson technology will dabble in risk management and due diligence, streamlining the research that portfolio managers do.


There aren't any immediate plans for the computers to pick stocks or interact directly with retail customers to provide advice. However, that type of soft automation seems like an obvious application.


Automated "chat robots" already answer basic customer questions for massive vendors like phone companies and airlines, routing whatever problems they can't solve to a human being.


Watson could do that. Watson can probably create a template financial plan, build and manage a retirement portfolio, prepare a tax return, generate client paperwork.


What it can't do is intuit how your clients feel beyond what their statistical behavior may indicate. And while it could passively attract prospects, I haven't seen anything that indicates that it can close a hard sale.


Managing relationships is still what humans do better than any computer. That will likely continue for awhile, and that's where human advisors -- everyone reading this, presumably -- can still outperform any competitor.




Comments (2)

The plot lines of The Matrix and The Terminator come to mind...
a guest , March 07, 2012
Now I can't stop thinking of Keanu turning to Carrie-Ann Moss and saying, "We need asset classes. LOTS of asset classes."

But this one is hitting a nerve with my friends because there's already so much push to automate the investment function and let the front-line advisors spend all their time with clients. The advisors are having a great time with that concept. The proprietary strategy managers are nervous that they might be on the road to extinction.

Back to the fun, talked to a pretty big lawyer a few months ago who was convinced that most court cases will soon be pre-screened (decided) by robot judges to ease system load. Not sure I want Watson handling that, but I might want it representing me in that scenario.
ScottMartin , March 07, 2012

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