FNB is empowering its workforce with Artificial Intelligence literacy programme


FNB is running an Artificial Intelligence (AI) literacy programme aimed at equipping its workforce with skills and competencies they need to be able to use for the new world of work. The programme also equips employees to critically assess AI tools, understand their context and embedded principles, and question their design and implementation. This includes understanding the basics of what AI is, how it works, and what the strengths and limitations of the technologies are.

Financial institutions like FNB have had to reimagine ways of working and ways of engaging with their customers. We’ve had to rapidly scale up online channels used to engage customers. We’ve also had to accelerate digital transformation initiatives and embrace automation to meet complex customer needs and to drive digital operational efficiency.

We’re in the midst of an era in which emerging technologies are becoming commonplace, and ever more capable, shaking up numerous industries in the process. One of these technologies is AI, which enables computers to perform the sorts of tasks generally thought to require human intelligence, and which can “learn” and adapt, and financial services are going to be as affected by it as any other industry.

Our new reality is AI-driven, and FNB’s workforce should feel excited rather than threatened. Because instead of presenting an existential threat, AI is poised to help the Bank scale up digital channels, meet more of our customers’ evolving needs, and drive efficiency for less complex work which AI can often automate. Where AI can’t automate a task, it can often nonetheless augment people’s ability to complete it. That frees up employees to do more creative work better suited to their expertise and helps increase effectiveness throughout the organisation.

AI isn’t new, but the rate at which its changing industries is ramping up exponentially. McKinsey expects the AI industry for banking will become a trillion-dollar one in coming years. A third of that value is anticipated to come from advanced AI functions — predominantly in the risk space — with the other two-thirds stemming from traditional AI and analytics used by marketing, sales, risk, and human resource (HR) divisions.

A UBS Evidence Lab report shows that 80% of banks like ours are highly aware of the potential benefits presented by AI, and by the end of 2023, the aggregate potential cost savings for banks from Al applications is estimated at $447 billion.

While FNB continues to steer the data literacy programme to enable the organisation to “speak data”, it’s also necessary to empower our people with AI skills by ensuring a base level of AI literacy. AI helps employees become more competent by deepening their knowledge of the work they do and helps reduce the time spent doing menial tasks.

This AI literacy programme covers — among other topics — the history of AI and its potential for financial services, why organisations need an AI strategy, current AI trends and tools, aligning AI strategies with business goals, and how to use AI tools to improve your effectiveness.

It also covers how frontline staff can identify and assess the possibilities for AI in the organisation, how to justify your use of AI to top management, regulators, and their staff with performance-based evidence, and how to align AI with strategic business goals. By the end of the programme, they will understand AI use cases, how to assess and prioritise AI opportunities, how to master responsible AI principles, and the factors to consider when building or enhancing an AI infrastructure to support AI applications.

They will also understand how to create a suitable data strategy to support the organisational AI strategy, what the pre-requisites for mitigating AI failures are, and how decision intelligence connects AI, data, actions, and value creation.

This AI literacy programme will equip FNB employees with skills (e.g., how to leverage AI, data informed decision making etc.) needed to use AI technologies and applications as tools, and reimagine ways of working and ways of engaging with customers.

This programme will also enable FNB to build further and scale its AI capabilities, drive collaborative engagement, and position FNB as a leading force that is leveraging AI to continue driving the contextual banking value proposition through scaling up digital channels (e.g. AI bots, digital payment advisors and risk detection mechanisms lead to higher quality of services to a wider customer base), use AI to customize financial products and services by adding personalized features for customers, and improve customer experience by understanding and meeting their evolving needs.

Through this programme FNB will be able to accelerate the use of AI to keep up with complex, evolving, and emerging risks (including climate, cyber, financial crimes, and the like) and drive efficiency for work which AI can often automate allowing FNB to leverage human and machine capabilities optimally to drive operational and cost efficiencies and deliver personalized services.


By Prof. Mark Nasila, Chief Data and Analytics Officer in FNB Chief Risk Office

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