OCBC, the Singapore-based bank, is set to roll out a generative artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot to its 30,000 employees globally in November 2023 to assist them with writing, research and ideation. The deployment of the chatbot, a collaboration between Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI and OCBC, aims to further boost productivity and better serve customers.

The bank-wide roll-out of the AI chatbot comes after a six-month trial (from April to September 2023) involving about 1,000 OCBC staff across multiple functions including investment research, product management and marketing.

OCBC staff have used OCBC GPT to write investment research reports, translate content in multiple languages and draft customer responses. On average, participants of the trial were able to complete their tasks about 50 per cent faster than previously. This included time taken to check OCBC GPT’s output to ensure factual accuracy.

OCBC ChatGPT is powered by ChatGPT’s Large Language Models, which analyse queries and produce fully fleshed-out answers and results based on accessible text-based information on the web. At the same time, the chatbot is hosted in a secure and controlled environment: Information entered by OCBC staff is kept within the Bank and will not be availed to Microsoft or any external parties.

Donald MacDonald, head of group data office at OCBC Bank

Donald MacDonald, head of the group data office at OCBC, explained the significance of the move: “We are excited to be one of the first banks in the world to deploy generative AI tools at scale.

“We believe that these tools have the potential to transform the way our employees work by automating a wide range of time-consuming tasks, freeing up their time to focus on more strategic and value-added work. This in turn helps us provide better customer service by spending more time building relationships with customers and developing innovative products and services.”

AI focus 

Prior to the launch of OCBC GPT, OCBC had deployed several generative AI productivity tools to develop code, summarise documents, transcribe calls and create an internal knowledge base. The bank found that the tools similarly boosted productivity by as high as 50 per cent, freeing up employees’ time and enabling them to focus on higher-value tasks.

Currently, more than four million decisions – in processes such as risk management, customer service and sales – are made by AI in the bank daily. This is projected to increase to 10 million by 2025.

Using AI, personalised recommendations and insights are pushed to customers through the mobile banking app. 250 million of these insights are sent yearly to help customers save time and effort as well as improve their financial management.

AI is also harnessed to enhance the Bank’s anti-money laundering efforts. Through an AI-powered platform, OCBC can quickly analyse customer profiles and networks, identifying suspicious communities and transactions.

Investing in talent

In 2019, OCBC also became the first Singapore bank to launch a postgraduate AI scholarship to nurture a pipeline of AI talent.

In the same year, the Bank launched its Data Certification Pathway to groom data professionals in-house through a 12 to 18-month training programme. More than 300 staff have since completed this programme. In 2018, OCBC was the first bank in Singapore to launch a dedicated AI Lab to strategically develop in-house AI capabilities, which has since been subsumed within the Group Data Office.

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