How AI is helping banks meet the challenges of COVID-19

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By Immaculate Motsi-Omoijiade
Research Fellow, Lloyds Banking Group Centre for Responsible Business

The coronavirus pandemic has brought to the fore the vital role that technology plays in our day-to-day lives. This role extends beyond keeping us connected and entertained. Technology is also being deployed to address the commercial and public health challenges that have arisen as a result of the pandemic.

In particular, Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven technology is proving to be a powerful tool in supporting the changes and addressing the challenges brought about by COVID-19. For example, in addition to enhancing the support for medical services, algorithms are being developed by businesses to facilitate processes such as sales prioritisation, matching demand and supply, remote document and identity verification, and the automation of back-office tasks.

Similarly in the banking sector, Lloyds Banking Group is making good use of AI to help deal with the impacts of the pandemic on its operations. As with all large banks, Lloyds is currently facing the challenges of crisis management, including constraints on staff and customers as a result of social distancing and quarantine measures. It’s also had to contend with an increase in enquiries to their call centres, which have been understaffed and overwhelmed at a time when customers are most in need of reassurance.

But through the use of AI, Lloyds is able to identify calls from priority customers – such as those who work for the NHS or are aged over 70 – and put them to the front of the queue. And a suite of AI-driven features embedded in its mobile banking app aims to help Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland customers stay connected to their finances through features such as receiving payment change notifications and the ability to track their spending.

Because so many banking staff are now working from home, with remote access to data and core systems, the sector is facing a substantial cybersecurity risk. The European Central Bank (ECB) has advised banks to make plans and prepare for a surge in cyberattacks as hackers look to exploit the crisis. The ECB also warned of the risk of more cybersecurity-related fraud targeting both customers and banks through methods such as phishing emails.

For its part, Lloyds has developed a cutting-edge AI-driven fraud detection system nicknamed ‘The Rat’. Launched in 2019, the system uses a combination of biometric data (including voice recognition) and software that can detect – in real-time – whether or not remote access has been used to access the customer’s computer. The Rat’s machine learning algorithms monitor for suspicious patterns by analysing huge numbers of data points, identifying new fraud techniques as they emerge and quickly closing the gaps before these can be exploited. It can even predict future fraudulent trends and has so far prevented more than 1,900 customers from falling victim to £4million-worth of scams.

Lloyds Banking Group is demonstrating what a powerful tool AI can be in supporting and meeting the needs of customers during this pandemic, while also ensuring the security of business networks. Such automated systems are now essential for ensuring businesses are resilient and capable of addressing the unique challenges posed by global shocks like COVID-19, now and in the future.

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