Is AI heralding the advice business of the future?

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What role does A.I. have to play in the future of advice in Australia?

Imagine that time travel is possible. Take a trip back to the late 1700s – a time when the world was just starting to emerge from a permanent power blackout. Long distance communication is a painfully slow, unreliable process, and work is often performed at home – without the handy assistance of Skype or email.

Now imagine bringing someone back with you to 2016/17. It’s almost impossible to imagine what the 21st century would be like for someone who hasn’t lived it. We take electricity, computing, digital communication and the internet for granted on a daily basis – and the pace of technological advancement is only getting quicker by the minute (literally).

So much so, that if we were now able to take a trip just 10 years into the future, it’s highly likely we’d struggle to comprehend the technologically complex lives that our future selves will be leading.

The good news is, that we’ll be also be leading much more efficient and productive lives. How do we know? Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already proving this.

With its efficacy at automating repetitive tasks that small business owners typically spend hours each week on, AI for business has become a $202.5 million USD market, and is predicted to hit $11.1 billion USD by 2024.

And according to the world’s biggest tech companies like Cisco, Google and Xero, we’re only just scratching the surface of what AI – and its close cousin, the Internet of Things (IoT) – has to offer. To put it simply, the smartphone and cloud-based technology is now just child’s play.

In terms of what it is already doing to boost efficiency of small businesses, AI is encompassing satellite technology to help farmers plan their planting, developing smartphone apps that track store inventory, heat maps that assess customer movements, even work as personal assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon Alexa.

Most current office-based AI applications however, are designed with a narrow focus so they can perform fairly complex tasks but that doesn’t mean they don’t pack an efficiency-boosting punch.

Some of the most exciting AI apps for advice business owners currently include:

Amy: The smart assistant app. When you get a meeting request, Amy handles the back-and-forth to pin down a time and place, responding and scheduling to all emails as a natural speaker.

Quill: Takes a specific set of data and weaves it into a written document, which makes generating financial reports a nearly automatic process. The app is so smart that most humans cannot distinguish its writing from that of a person.

Textio: Uses AI to help businesses write better job ads. The app analyses wording to determine how attractive a job listing would read to a potential candidate. It also offers suggestions so you can strengthen the way your phrase something, or even eliminate a subconscious gender bias in a job description.

Amazon Alexa: This innovation blends AI with the Internet of Things. Last year’s AFA Adviser of the Year, David Reed, brought one back from his trip to the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas as he saw the potential it held for use with older clients. Speaking to ‘Alexa’ (Amazon’s voice control system), you can ask for anything and get the answer instantly, as well as set voice reminders – particularly helpful for clients who have lost some of their memory. They can now use a simple voice command for things that would previously need someone else’s help them with.

The Aussie AI movement

There is also a revolution underway in the Australian financial services space being powered by AI. Local automated investment adviser and fund manager, Stockspot, recently announced a move into artificial intelligence and machine learning, launching what it says is Australia’s first digital financial assistant.

The challenge remains however, that many consumers – and business owners – are still very new to this idea of “AI enterprise applications,” and while it is easy to come up with ideas, the technology to make it work – and work well – can be much more difficult.

Another significant concern from business owners is that AI applications could detract from the valuable client relationships that have, in some cases, taken years to establish. From this perspective, it is important to keep in mind that technology doesn’t build your relationships – it services them. Think about it the same way that industry professionals still go to conferences and conventions, despite the fact that lot of this information is now made available online. In the end, people still crave human interaction. They don’t want a digital regurgitation of information, they want to talk to a person about the possibilities.

The key is recognising those critical moments that demand a human connection and those that can be made easier and more efficient by leveraging the marvels of AI technology , leaving you with more time to focus on what matters most – your clients.

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