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Fintech Innovation Lab startup alumni seize the AI ​​boom

Fintech Innovation Lab startup alumni seize the AI ​​boom


The novelty of AI as a game-changer may be fading, but it continues to be a sought-after element among startups graduating from Fintech Innovation Lab New York this year.

A recent demo day featured nine companies developing ideas, including Reality Defender's cybersecurity resources for detecting AI-generated content that bad actors use to commit fraud, and Qumis, which offers an AI-assisted platform for analyzing insurance policies.

An overview of the companies conducting the demos can be found here.

While not all startups in this year’s class are AI-focused, a heightened use of the technology was expected, as evidenced by the Labs 2023 class entering the field and the general attention AI has received recently.

In a separate interview after Demo Day, Maria Gotch, co-chair of the Fintech Innovation Lab, said that conversations with financial institution partners in the fall would shape how each class of applicants would be shaped. “Not surprisingly, in almost every conversation we had with our 40 financial institution partners, AI was raised as a concern for them,” Gotch said. So when we went to market, we made sure to target those kinds of companies because it was a high priority for everyone. Those priorities also included finding AI tools that could help financial institutions meet regulatory needs, such as detecting deepfakes and establishing resources to protect against new risks, Gotch said.

Related: Accenture Report: Cloud and Edge Can Power AI Reinvention

Gotch also serves as president and CEO of the New York City Partnership Fund, one of the New York Institute's co-founding organizations along with Accenture.

“That was definitely a theme of what we were hearing from financial institutions: they want to learn from startups that are on the cutting edge of these different perspectives,” says Stephen Murphy, senior managing director of financial services industry solutions at Accenture, who is also an executive sponsor of the lab.

Accenture is no stranger to AI, having made a series of big investments in the space in recent years and is keen to see its potential.

Murphy said about 90% of the companies that were finalists for this year's lab are either using AI directly or as part of their solution, and are well aligned with the needs of incumbents in the financial industry. While there was an element of financial institutions learning the ropes, exploring the technology, gaining a deeper understanding and figuring out how it can fit into a regulated environment, Murphy said there was one interesting thing that happened toward the end of this year's class: One of the companies was actually acquired by a financial institution.

Related: AI, data and cryptocurrency come to life at Fintech Innovation Lab's Demo Day

Although they didn't do a demo, Hyperplane, which was acquired by NuBank, developed a platform that allows financial institutions to deliver personalized consumer experiences using specialized LLMs, and there was definitely interest in bringing that capability and talent in-house, Murphy said.

The financial industry can often be reluctant to adopt new technologies and methodologies given the regulatory scrutiny many financial institutions may face. AI may carve out new territory where there are no well-established guardrails, but the rapid growth in the use and adoption of AI compared to other emerging technologies means that financial institutions cannot afford to ignore the possibilities the technology offers.

“It's a boom versus a slow rise,” Gotch said. “If I were to compare the two technologies over the roughly 14 years that we've been operating, I'd say that digital currency and the cloud have both been on interesting journeys.”

According to Gotch, digital currencies started with cryptocurrencies, went through a phase where financial institutions felt untouched, then had to learn about cryptocurrencies. Then they wanted to know what use cases were attractive to them. With the cloud, financial institutions also took a phased approach, with a few institutions getting early on to use it, followed by various adoptions throughout the decade of efforts, Gotch said.

Related: AI, Bitcoin, and Spirits at New York Fintech Week

In the lab's early days, she says, a common question these early-stage companies were asked was, “Where are you going to build your solution?” And the answer was, “Of course, on the Amazon cloud.” But that might not make sense for institutions that need an on-premise solution. Many in the financial sector are considering two strategies: private clouds within third-party providers, and some that continue to maintain data rooms, Gotch says.

But the lightning-speed adoption of AI seems to have the finance industry taking notice and becoming interested in how to leverage these tools. “There's been a dramatic acceleration of generative AI and putting it in the hands of the general public, which is why I call it kind of a boom factor,” Gotch said. It wasn't a gradual increase in interest; it was, “Yeah, I'm doing something with AI. I want to learn about AI.”

From Accenture's perspective, Murphy agreed with the depiction of an AI boom. “We see AI as a pervasive technology that will drive value and impact across the value chain in every industry,” he said. One of the things we expect to start seeing good examples of in this year's class and continue to see in the coming years is we see huge opportunity and huge impact and value in addition to helping financial institutions execute Base Camp use cases well. This could include functions like customer service, sales, marketing, content creation and even regulatory compliance and co-piloting for underwriting,” he said.




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