Last week Barclays’ credit card business struck a deal with Amazon to offer seamless customised shopping and payment services in Germany. The announcement drew little attention amid the US election, pandemic pain but Jes Staley, Barclays chief executive, said the deal has been one of the most important things to have happened to Barclays in the past five years.
The AI platforms now being deployed in finance are exponentially more powerful than anything seen before. In particular, the capabilities unleashed by a subset of AI called “deep learning” represent “a fundamental discontinuity” from the past, a new MIT paper warns. Jack Ma, founder of Ant and Alibaba, the ecommerce group, was arguably one of the first to spot the potential. It uses data on consumer and corporate digital activity to predict credit risk and provide customised services. That is a key reason why the Chinese finance group has expanded at such a dizzy pace. But western companies are racing to catch up both in retail — with Barclays’ German deal — and wholesale finance.