Dr. Kishore Dhara, Technical Director & AI/ML Architect, OakNorth

Dr. Kishore Dhara is Technical Director & AI/ML Architect at OakNorth, having joined the business in February 2021. Prior to this, he worked as CTO at techsophy for over four years and before that, held the roles of CTO and Chief Scientist. He was recipient of the Thomas Alva Edison Award for Innovation in 2015.

 

This year has been another massive one for the global fintech sector. According to the recent CB Insights’ State of Venture Report, fintech investments have hit $91.5 billion so far this year, nearly doubling last year’s total, with 42 fintech companies becoming new unicorns in the third quarter alone. The pandemic continues to accelerate digitalisation across the full breadth of the financial services industry. Legacy systems and manual processes will be put under huge pressure to keep up, with process changes brought about by Covid-19 likely needing to be constantly adapted and improved as they become the ‘new normal’.

Looking ahead to next year, it has been reported that the total fintech market value will reach $309.98 billion, more than twice its 2018 value of $127.66 billion. With key drivers including the rise in customers with access to either a computer or a smartphone and the increased adoption throughout the financial world of stronger remote services.

India’s own fintech ecosystem has seen huge growth and expansion recently. According to a report by Boston Consulting Group and FICCI, India is well-positioned to achieve a FinTech sector valuation of $150-160 billion by 2025. This growth has made India as one of the world leaders when it comes to financial innovation and its fintech landscape will likely expand further in 2022, whilst its reputation as a thought leader and talent provider will also likely strengthen globally throughout next year.

India has always been and continues to be a key market for talent. We employ a significant amount of top talent within the Machine Learning and AI sectors across our offices in Gurugram, Bengaluru and our recently opened site in Hyderabad. Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to grow our tech team and capabilities despite the unprecedented economic and working environment, and I have no doubt that it will continue to be a key talent market for fintechs such asOakNorth.

Banks will continue to invest heavily in technology next year to best achieve growth, with a special emphasis being put on technologies that will transform their commercial lending practices. At a high level, we think two specific technologies will stand out in next year in terms of their role in the transformation – AI/ML & Credit Data Science and Cloud Computing & Cloud Platforms.

A recent study revealed that 70% of global fintechs are using AI/ML today, and it’s predicted to dominate the market by 2025, with over two thirds of fintechs believing AI is the technology that will have the biggest impact on the sector over the next five years. In the commercial lending spacespecifically, AI/ML can be leveraged with an analyst-in-the-loop approach. AI/ML algorithms can mine and curate credit knowledge from various sources and/or build models that enable analysts to make better decisions, to build better models, and also to scale to multiple sectors and subsectors. This hybrid approach allows analysts to direct and shape final output of the analysis and their applicability. While chipping away on the automation is desirable, we believe in a pragmatic approach of AI/ML helping analysts in improving scale, speed, and reliability.

From a credit point of view, AI/ML can be used to assess a borrower or a business ability to sustain a level of debt and repay loans. Again, there are several approaches to addressing this and at OakNorth we use data science as part of understanding credit behavior, assessing credit risks, and for forecasting metrics that are crucial for commercial lending.Credit data science can capture relationships across borrower’s data, historical data, current events, macro and micro parameters, and other aspects to model a granular level of analysis on borrowers and lenders’ portfolios. These algorithms can also provide point-in-time analysis and monitoring.

When it comes to the cloud, we will see continued adoption of cloud computing, with predictions from Gartner revealing global spending on cloud services is expected to reach over $482 billion next year, up from $313 billion in 2020. Cloud computing offers many benefits to commercial lenders, including added flexibility and speed, a reduction of costs, increased adaptability, and a strengthening of security. Our UK bank, OakNorth Bank, has been fully-cloud hosted since May 2016, when it became the first UK bank to achieve this. With increasing data, algorithms and models constantly evolving, offering lending services on scalable cloud platforms enables continuous and seamless deployment of new models.

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