AI & Finance™ | News for the Week Ending 4/5/24

1934

Whenever a new technology emerges into any labor-intensive economic sector, a battle of futurists results.  

On one side are the technological utopians who imagine that the emerging tech will revolutionize the way consumers access products and services, or the way professionals work, and thus change the economic sector forever. On the other side are the conservatives, a word which in this sense carries a meaning similar to traditionalists, who argue that there’s no way technology can do what humans have done for decades, generations or centuries within this economic sector. 

Of course, most students of history will point out that, more often than not, neither side of reactionaries engaging in debate about the future of an industry turns out to be correct. Yes, technology changes everything, but it doesn’t always completely destroy the old order or do away with older ways of doing things. This being a tech-oriented newsletter, opinions around here tend to lean more towards the technological utopians than the traditionalists, but we like to discuss and explore both views. 

That brings us to one of the chief arguments against a technological takeover of more of the consumer-facing elements of financial services: People want the emotional responsiveness of a human being, especially in times of financial stress or indecision. Traditionalists argue that the human financial services client, who often wants to delegate decision-making to a knowledgeable professional, also wants a human voice on the other end of the call when they need to inquire about their finances. 

Enter Hume AI, whose launch announcement finds its way into this week’s AI & Finance roundup. Hume AI is able to create artificially generated voice content with empathy and emotional intelligence. Thanks to AI, computers are becoming master communicators, able to sense when a client needs additional emotional support. These are exactly the kinds of nuances traditionalists have assured us that computers will never be able to master, thus keeping the human knowledge professional’s job safe from disruption. 

Given the entrance of technology like Hume AI into the fray, are we still so sure that customer-facing financial professionals are immune from disruption? 

I’m not. 

In this week’s AI in Finance roundup, we have news from 17 different announcements, including Hume AI’s and entries from Alight, Morgan Stanley, FP Alpha and VaildMind. 

READ ON…..


1. Alight 

Alight announced the first major release of Alight Worklife for 2024. 

The release introduces AI-powered workforce support, comprehensive benefits management, and holistic financial and wellbeing capabilities to improve the employee experience and help generate increased ROI for employers. 

The release introduces Alight LumenAITM, Alight’s next-generation AI engine. Alight LumenAI brings additional enhancements including Generative AI and Large Language Models (LLMs) to Alight’s Interactive Virtual Assistant (IVA) chatbot, and personalized content and message targeting models trained on large-scale datasets. 

2. American University 

The Kogod School of Business at American University announced that artificial intelligence (AI) is now infused into its academic curriculum and day-to-day practices. The full rollout of more than 20 new and updated courses in the fall 2024 semester ensures incoming and existing Kogod students graduate with industry-leading expertise in AI and machine learning (ML). Kogod’s plan also includes faculty and staff trainings, new certificate offerings for students, private sector engagement and partnership, and operational overhauls to remain current as new technology develops. 

With the new curricular changes, Kogod students will master prompt engineering and programming—essential AI concepts and tools—and will gain experience with R, Python and AI/ML Models. The redesigned curriculum consists of “AI Sage” courses, which include deep immersion into the use of AI in a real-world context, and “AI Artisan” courses, which discuss the application of AI in a more abstract and theoretical way. AI courses and workshops are also now requirements of the undergraduate core curriculum for incoming students. Not only will students learn how to use different AI platforms and tools, but they will also learn about the inherent risks and ethical challenges underlying AI technology. 

Kogod has made deep investments in hiring faculty with AI/ML expertise. Angela Virtu and Shawn Janzen joined Kogod in 2023, and two additional experts in AI/ML will join the full-time faculty this fall. A significant number of Kogod’s faculty currently use AI tools in their coursework, and real-time learning for faculty and staff ensures coursework and the school’s day-to-day practices are aligned with the rapidly changing field of AI. In April, Kogod will host the first of many industry panels featuring executives across sectors—from marketing to finance to tech—where AI is driving business change. 

3. Arizona State University 

Following ASU’s groundbreaking announcement of the first university collaboration with OpenAI, the W. P. Carey School of Business is officially launching a new degree program — the Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence in Business (MS-AIB). Backed by faculty from the Department of Information Systems, it is the first AI graduate degree program from a business school in the United States. 

The new W. P. Carey MS-AIB program incorporates an applied curriculum and career coaching to prepare graduates for success in emerging roles across industries. Taught by world-renowned faculty, the MS-AIB degree develops technical AI and professional skills needed to thrive in the constantly evolving landscape of technology and business.
The goal of the program is to equip leaders with a business-aligned framework and strategies for implementing AI — delivering both technical skills and business skills to design, deploy, and apply AI mindfully in diverse business contexts. The program begins in the fall of 2024 on ASU’s Tempe campus. 

4. Behavox 

Behavox announced the successful attainment of SOC 2 Type 2 examination for the third consecutive time. This achievement underscores Behavox’s unwavering commitment to maintaining the highest security, availability and privacy standards, emphasizing the company’s dedication to protecting its clients’ data integrity and privacy. 

Since first achieving SOC 2 Type 2 examination in February 2021, Behavox has worked in close collaboration with esteemed auditors Schellman & Company, a top 50 CPA firm specializing in attestation and compliance services. This partnership focuses on rigorously testing existing controls and validating new measures across key domains, including security, availability, and privacy. This continuous effort ensures that Behavox remains at the forefront of security and privacy standards, offering unparalleled protection in an ever-evolving digital landscape. 

The significance of robust security measures has never been more critical, especially within the Financial Services sector. The landscape is witnessing an escalation in the sophistication of malicious actors, propelled by advancements in Generative AI technologies. This evolving threat landscape necessitates a vigilant and dynamic approach to security, emphasizing the importance of continuously reevaluating and strengthening security controls to preempt potential threats. 

5. Databricks 

Databricks announced the launch of DBRX, a general purpose large language model (LLM) that outperforms all established open source models on standard benchmarks. DBRX democratizes the training and tuning of custom, high-performing LLMs for every enterprise so they no longer need to rely on a small handful of closed models. Available today, DBRX enables organizations around the world to cost-effectively build, train, and serve their own custom LLMs. DBRX outperforms existing open source LLMs like Llama 2 70B and Mixtral-8x7B on standard industry benchmarks, such as language understanding, programming, math and logic. DBRX also outperforms GPT-3.5 on relevant benchmarks. 

Paired with Databricks Mosaic AI’s unified tooling, DBRX helps customers rapidly build and deploy production-quality generative AI applications that are safe, accurate, and governed without giving up control of their data and intellectual property. Customers benefit from built-in data management, governance, lineage and monitoring capabilities on the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform. 

6. FP Alpha 

FP Alpha, an AI-driven advanced planning solution for financial advisors and PreciseFP, a client engagement and data gathering platform from Docupace, announced a strategic partnership that will leverage PreciseFPs significant integration partnerships to assist advisors that are using financial planning software that is not currently integrated with FP Alpha. This will allow those advisors the ability to access and auto-populate client data from their planning software directly into the FP Alpha platform, saving hours of time and providing advisors the ability to offer advanced planning to their entire base. 

The expanded integration enables FP Alpha users to collect critical data and documents in a secure manner leveraging the power of PreciseFP. Additionally, the data connection allows FP Alpha users to sync this data with widely used financial planning tools like RightCapital and eMoney Advisor. 

Data and documents are now seamlessly fed into FP Alpha’s AI-driven technology that reads clients’ tax returns, wills, trusts and insurance policies, and instantly summarizes key data and identifies actionable planning insights – reducing what used to take days and hours into minutes. 

7. HaystackID 

HaystackID, a specialized data services company solving business data challenges related to legal, compliance, regulatory, and cyber events, announced the launch of the M365 with HaystackID Suite, a comprehensive offering designed to help organizations unlock Microsoft 365’s full potential for enhanced productivity, collaboration, and security. The M365 with HaystackID Suite helps organizations migrate, organize, protect, ready, and discover with Microsoft 365 by leveraging a range of services and solutions for archive migration, records management, data loss prevention and data classification, Microsoft Copilot readiness, and more. 

Organizations can use the M365 with HaystackID Suite with HaystackID’s Global Advisory practice, which organizes specialized industry experts and teams into practices that help clients purposely plan, assess, report, and manage complex and critical tasks, projects, and programs. Global Advisory supports business-critical and risk-significant requirements and opportunities by providing dedicated practices in cyber discovery and incident response, privacy and compliance, information governance (enterprise risk management), and enterprise managed solutions. Complemented by HaystackID Discovery Intelligence and HaystackID Core, HaystackID Global Advisory provides expert advisory for next-generation discovery. 

Building on a dedicated practice that transforms how businesses leverage Microsoft 365, the M365 with HaystackID Suite reflects HaystackID’s commitment to developing tailor-made solutions that align with each organization’s unique business processes. HaystackID’s Global Advisory experts complement the services offered through the M365 with HaystackID Suite and work closely with clients to assess their specific needs and develop customized strategies for optimal Microsoft 365 utilization. 

8. Hume AI 

Hume AI announced it has raised a $50M Series B. The round, led by EQT Ventures, will support the debut and continued development of Hume’s new flagship product: an emotionally intelligent voice interface that can be built into any application. Union Square Ventures, Nat Friedman & Daniel Gross, Metaplanet, Northwell Holdings, Comcast Ventures, and LG Technology Ventures also participated in the round. 

Hume AI was founded by Dr. Alan Cowen, a former Google researcher and scientist best known for pioneering semantic space theory – a computational approach to understanding emotional experience and expression which has revealed nuances of the voice, face, and gesture that are now understood to be central to human communication globally. The Company, which operates at the intersection of artificial intelligence, human behavior, and health and well-being, has created an advanced API toolkit for measuring human emotional expression that is already used in industries spanning from robotics to customer service, healthcare, health and wellness, user research, and more. 

In connection with the fundraise, Hume AI has released a beta version of its flagship product, an Empathic Voice Interface (EVI). The emotionally intelligent conversational AI is the first to be trained on data from millions of human interactions to understand when users are finished speaking, predict their preferences, and generate vocal responses optimized for user satisfaction over time. These capabilities will be available to developers with just a few lines of code and can be built into any application. 

9. IFi AI 

Built in partnership with IBM watsonx, the world’s most robust generative AI and scientific data platform, iFi AI harnesses millions of data points alongside macro, fundamental and technical signals and alternative data sources to provide forecasted returns for more than 1,000 stocks and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). 

Alongside each forecasted return, iFi AI also provides an assigned Confidence Value, a specific numerical value showing iFi AI users the level of conviction the firm’s model has identified for each and every trade. 

10. Morgan Stanley 

Morgan Stanley announced that it has won three 2024 Celent Model Awards recognizing the Firm’s innovative use of technology. The awards include a Model Wealth Manager Award for its AI @ Morgan Stanley Assistant in the Essential and Emerging Technologies category, a Model Wealth Manager Award for its Fractional Share program in the Personalization category, and a Model Risk Manager Award for its Portfolio Risk Platform in the Data and Analytics category. 

Celent’s Model Wealth Manager awards recognize best practices of technology usage in different areas critical to success in wealth management and is the main award that a financial firm in the industry can receive from Celent. Celent’s Model Risk Manager award category recognizes best practices use of technology in financial risk management, operational risk management, cross risk, and financial crime. 

The AI @ Morgan Stanley Assistant leverages Open AI’s large language model to analyze and synthesize complex information in seconds and to summarize answers for Financial Advisors in an easily digestible format. Designed specifically for and by Morgan Stanley with appropriate controls, AI @ Morgan Stanley Assistant empowers Financial Advisors to ask questions and evaluate large amounts of Morgan Stanley’s world-renowned intellectual capital. 

11. NewRetirement 

NewRetirement announced that it has closed its Series A round with $20 million in funding. The round was led by Allegis Capital and joined by Ulu Ventures, Nationwide Ventures, Fin Capital, Frontier Venture Capital, Cameron Ventures, Marin Sonoma Impact Ventures, Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, Plug and Play Ventures and Motley Fool Ventures, bringing the company’s total funding to $20.8 million. 

This news arrives at a time when access to holistic financial planning is more critical than ever. The majority of Americans – as many as 65%, per Charles Schwab’s Modern Wealth Survey 2023 – have no formal financial plan. Further, while 37% of respondents work with a financial advisor, two-thirds of Americans (66%) believe their financial planning needs improvement, according to Northwestern Mutual’s Planning and Progress Study 2023. Rather than relying on the traditional advisor model – which isn’t accessible to everyone and is difficult to scale – NewRetirement has leveraged technology, data, and modeling to create powerful digital tools that allow anyone to confidently create and manage their own financial plan that goes beyond savings and investments to include human capital, benefits, pensions, Medicare, Social Security, home equity, taxes, decumulation, estate planning and more. The comprehensive planning and modeling engine considers thousands of scenarios, enabling individuals to do holistic accumulation and decumulation planning with digital guidance. NewRetirement’s direct-to-consumer product currently powers financial planning for 70,000 active users who are managing close to $100 billion dollars in their own financial plans. 

With its Series A funding, NewRetirement will expand its enterprise offerings, scale onboarding and support for new partners, enhance R&D efforts aimed at helping its user base, integrate LLMs and AI to provide more personalized recommendations, and build capacity to meet growing demand.   

12. Observe 

Observe announced the Company has closed a Series B funding round of $115 million led by Sutter Hill Ventures with participation from existing investors Capital One Ventures and Madrona and new investor Snowflake Ventures. 

The Series B funding, raised at a valuation 10x higher than the company’s Series A round four years ago, promises to further accelerate Observe’s growth. In FY2024, ARR increased 171%, TCV increased 194% and NRR, an indication of a product’s stickiness, increased to 174% (best-in-class is considered to be 130%). Observe’s headcount increased more than 50% and the company is scaling its sales organization as many tech companies pull back. 

The rise of cloud-native computing and complex microservice-based architectures has exponentially increased the volume of telemetry data businesses generate — along with the cost of legacy monitoring and APM tools. Observe set out to address these challenges using a modern architecture, featuring a data lake to ingest any type of event data and a powerful data graph to provide relevant context. This helps organizations like Capital One, Reveal and Top Golf troubleshoot distributed applications faster, at a fraction of the cost. 

13. Portal 

Portal announced the launch of RAFA, an AI-powered investing copilot engineered to transform personal investment strategies for everyone. RAFA is the first intelligent investment app capable of providing generative AI-powered financial intelligence across traditional assets, such as stocks, ETFs, mutual funds and bonds, and digital assets, including cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). 

Built by a team of former Nvidia AI engineers, RAFA utilizes a team of AI Agents to continuously analyze millions of data points, which are used to inform models for users’ portfolios. These agents not only optimize risk and minimize drawdowns through strategic diversification but also identify investment alternatives tailored to individual styles. RAFA features a sophisticated and proprietary trend score system that captures intraday, short-term and long-term market trends to align investments with user-defined portfolio objectives. 

Each proprietary model specializes in a specific function such as fundamental analysis, momentum analysis, hedging strategy, risk, macro and financial planning. RAFA’s multi-agent collaborative architecture employs a blend of quantitative models and large language models that converse in real-time, exchange ideas and synthesize new financial insights personalized to each individual user. It’s akin to having a team of experts each specializing in one area, working together continuously around the clock. 

14. Quantiphi 

Quantiphi announced its Intelligent Document Processing SaaS Platform, Dociphi, is now available on Google Cloud Marketplace, enabling enterprises to reduce manual workloads and save valuable time and resources. 

Dociphi, which can be customized according to enterprise needs, empowers carriers, brokers, third-party administrators and lenders to streamline document processing workflows, reduce operational costs, ensure regulatory compliance and deliver superior customer experiences, ultimately providing a significant competitive edge through automation. 

Quantiphi Product Owner for Dociphi, Arunima Gautam said this milestone launch will enable our customers to solve what matters with unparalleled productivity and efficiency. 

15. Snowflake 

Snowflake announced the general availability of Snowflake Data Clean Rooms to customers in AWS East, AWS West, and Azure West, revolutionizing how enterprises of all sizes can securely share data and collaborate in a privacy-preserving manner to achieve high value business outcomes in the Data Cloud. The general availability follows Snowflake’s acquisition of data clean room technology provider Samooha, which was named one of the most innovative data science companies of 2024 by Fast Company. Samooha is now integrated into the Data Cloud and enhanced by the unified set of compliance, security, privacy, interoperability, and access capabilities of Snowflake Horizon. 

Businesses across industries need solutions to navigate the complexities of sharing sensitive data with external partners and customers, while maintaining data privacy and security. Data clean rooms have emerged as the technology to meet this need, enabling interoperability where multiple parties can collaborate on and analyze sensitive data in a governed way, without exposing direct access to the underlying data. Until now, data clean room technology was generally deployed by large organizations with access to technical data privacy experts. 

Enterprises of any size can now quickly deploy a cross-cloud data clean room with Snowflake Data Clean Rooms, available as a Snowflake Native App. Organizations can unlock new business value from data across sources, all within the governance, security, and privacy parameters of Snowflake. 

16. TrustArc 

TrustArc, a leader in data privacy management and governance solutions, announced two revolutionary product innovations set to transform the privacy landscape – Responsible AI Certification and NymityAI. 

These product launches reinforce TrustArc’s commitment to helping businesses implement responsible artificial intelligence (AI) practices via a verified and credible methodology, as well as bolster their privacy program management with the most comprehensive legal research application available via NymityAI. 

In concert with a commitment to responsible AI via the newly announced TRUSTe Responsible AI Certification, TrustArc is granting exclusive beta access to NymityAI — a new feature within Nymity Research. Designed to exponentially streamline the privacy research process, NymityAI equips professionals with critical information in a fraction of the time typically required. This AI-powered chatbot is a first-of-its-kind, powered by two decades of expert-written content, including 46,000 legal summaries and references and thousands of jurisdiction-specific topical overviews. NymityAI allows users to work smarter by providing actionable, succinct, and easy-to-understand privacy and regulatory answers, irrespective of privacy or legal expertise. Responses include citations to the original Nymity content source so users can feel confident in the information provided by the chatbot. 

17. ValidMind 

ValidMind announced it has raised $8.1 million in a seed funding round led by Point72 Ventures, with participation from Third Prime, New York Life Ventures, AI Fund, Notion Capital, FJ Labs, Angel Invest, and Gaingels. This funding will advance ValidMind’s go-to-market plans and establish it as a long-term partner to its customers in financial services. With this round, ValidMind’s total funds raised are $11.1 million. 

This funding arrives as more financial institutions embrace AI-powered solutions — 43% of executives believe AI will be critical to financial businesses by 2025. However, as AI/ML, particularly large language models (LLM), adoption increases in financial services, adequately managing its unique risks has become crucial for model risk management (MRM) teams, especially amid consumer concerns surrounding AI’s trustworthiness and safety. For instance, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports banks that use chatbots run the risk of providing inaccurate information to customers (which isn’t compliant with federal consumer financial protection laws) and diminishing consumer trust. 

In addition to increased pressure from regulators to comply with existing banking regulations, such as SR 11-7 (U.S.) and SS1-23 (U.K.), MRM teams are facing new regulatory challenges, such as EU’s AI Act and the recently announced AI Bill of Rights by the U.S. administration, pushing the limits of their current MRM processes and legacy MRM systems. These factors demonstrate that today’s financial institutions need an end-to-end solution that can promote trust and compliance at every step of the MRM lifecycle, which ValidMind provides.