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FOSTERING INNOVATION

Artificial Intelligence is here to stay – and to help

Forget science fiction, a project from the Intesa Sanpaolo AI Lab shows the real-world application of AI in helping us to achieve more

19/04/2021

After decades of science fiction predicting the ‘rise of the robots’, the question on many people’s minds when it comes to AI is this: will it take the place of humans one day? The straight answer, says Andrea Prampolini, head of financial markets analytics and digital solutions at Intesa Sanpaolo, is no. “On the contrary, AI is something that allows you to be more productive and empowers you,” he says.

Intesa Sanpaolo’s Artificial Intelligence Lab, embedded within the Innovation Center, uses AI to create new assets and skills that augment what humans can achieve to help businesses remain competitive. The lab develops both practical applications and theoretical research, all from a deep knowledge base of the particular demands and constraints of business and finance. Laura Li Puma is head of the AI Lab. “We apply a rigorous scientific method that defines the problem and finds the solution using the universal language of mathematics,” she says.

"The ideal is to have something for the business that can be used, but we also want to bring innovation and perhaps open new streams of research"

Laura Li Puma, head of AI Lab, Innovation Center, Intesa Sanpaolo

An example of just how AI can help humans in business comes from a soon-to-be patented technology developed in the Intesa Sanpaolo lab. The technology is designed to protect financial portfolios from significant adverse market movements. Using applied AI, the team can now analyse a much broader set of risk factors than before and perform in a few seconds analyses that might once have taken weeks.

“The reality of this type of algorithm is that it allows us to be more productive, so it has a kind of capital deepening effect,” says Andrea Prampolini, who is a lead on the project.

The lab partners with the Institute for Scientific Interchange (ISI), a research institution in Turin. The partnership is mutually beneficial, as academia has experienced a ‘brain drain’ to private companies in the past five to 10 years, with researchers attracted to corporate roles that solve real-world problems, with large datasets and for good salaries. Intesa Sanpaolo can assist ISI in pushing research forward, while also developing practical applications that business can use today.

"The reality of this type of algorithm is that it allows us to be more productive, so it has a kind of capital deepening effect"

Andrea Prampolini, head of financial markets analytics and digital solutions at Intesa Sanpaolo

“The wealth of digital data that are gathered by large institutions clearly represents an opportunity for AI, and banking and the whole financial sector has to embrace AI to remain relevant,” says Paolo Bajardi, Manager of Industrial Research at ISI.

“There is a right compromise between innovation and research. The ideal is to have something for the business that can be used, but we also want to bring innovation and perhaps open new streams of research,” adds Laura Li Puma.

When it comes to the limits of AI, there aren’t many, but Li Puma, Bajardi and the lab team are less concerned with the spectacle of AI than they are with its real-world applications. “The sky’s the limit,” says Paolo Bajardi. “But the important point is not really about AI achieving something alone, but about AI having a really good integration with people.”

"The wealth of digital data that are gathered by large institutions clearly represents an opportunity for AI"

Paolo Bajardi, Manager of Industrial Research, Institute for Scientific Interchange

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