AI a vehicle for customers to achieve aspirations – UnionBank Senior Advisor for Data and AI

Data science and artificial intelligence (or “DSAI”) are two “tandem”-technologies that are now taking over many industries across the globe. Artificial intelligence has brought about many exciting prospects that have ushered more personalized, “tailor-fit” digital experiences for many of us. This has made many of the things we do in our lives simpler, more instantaneous and, thus, more convenient. 

As Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) is now in the next phase of its digital transformation journey, the country’s leading digital bank has continued to invest in talent, infrastructure, and other resources needed to innovate and co-create using data science and AI, which is led by global data science expert Dr. David Hardoon Ph. D., as the Bank’s Senior Advisor for Data and Artificial Intelligence.

On the sixth installment of UnionBank’s exclusive “eTalk Tales” with Media, Dr. Hardoon discussed how UnionBank is translating data science and artificial intelligence insights into a very individualized way of banking, making sure that everyone is statistically significant and provided the ‘VIP’ treatment with a wide range of personalized services and solutions. 

“DSAI is a key element within UnionBank’s digitize or perish journey. It is the differentiator between just “Digitize to survive” versus “Digitize to flourish,” Hardoon said.

Hardoon emphasized that AI is a must-have to enable a scalable customer-centric finance of tomorrow, today. The goal is to make finance relevant, specific, and contextual to each individual consumer.  His use of AI is not artificial intelligence but ‘augmented intelligence’.  Reality is that humans are phenomenal in creativity that machines do not have. Machines may be able to replicate but it cannot originate. This, according to Hardoon, is where augmentation comes in. Data science uses the insights from machines to operationalize and contextualize. “It’s not a question of ‘can we do it’ but ‘should we do it’.”

“AI is the engine of the digital renaissance.  It is a vehicle to achieve an aspiration. It is important to anchor AI on what truly matters—people, whether customers or employees. AI is truly about being human centric first. The purpose is us, primarily as customers, and how do we leverage on the insight and knowledge that can be derived from AI to help shape financial services around us.”

Digital transformation is heralded as the game changer for the banking sector in today’s reality and for tomorrow’s necessity. The transformation is rooted on the aspiration of inclusive and resilient financial services, and is about achieving a reality where ones’ moments of life are not defined around the financial products available, but where financial services and products are created to support the milestones in life. 

“The Bank has been introducing and enhancing countless digital touchpoints for customer ease and fluidity of engagement. These touchpoints mean exactly that, that customers engage with the Bank on a more regular basis. It is our responsibility to…imagine. Imagine the ability to provide bridging, or intra-day loans without a customer’s need to submit hefty financial historical statements,” Hardoon said. 

UnionBank uses AI to upgrade its existing strategy and accelerate further innovation, an example of which is its use as an additional layer of defense against financial crimes. AI enables the Bank to detect more instances while making sure that the existing defense and process will not be disrupted to ensure operation efficiency.  AI is also being leveraged by the Bank to predict future volume of inbound calls that can reduce some of the volatility in call management.  Through AI, the cash management solutions team are provided with data-driven relevant recommendations and proposals for customers.

Data Science and AI (DSAI) enables capabilities in understanding customers’ needs through their various engagements with the bank and providers and the ability to go beyond a templatized approach to ascertain relevance, suitability, and affordability.  This makes UnionBank, Philippine banking’s best in the data science and AI field.

Consistent with its commitment to make banking simpler and more inclusive via best-in-class digital and mobile capabilities, UnionBank President and CEO Edwin Bautista believes that leveraging Data and AI is a key driver to the next-level of its digital transformation as the Bank continues to put the customer—both individuals and corporates, at the heart of its business.

About Dr. David Hardoon

Dr. David Hardoon is Senior Advisor for Data and AI at UnionBank of the Philippines. As part of his responsibilities, he works with various centers, groups, and units to reinforce data infrastructure and governance, behavior modelling, machine learning, and AI capabilities as well as applications in the Bank.

In addition to his responsibilities at UnionBank, Dr. Hardoon also serves as advisor for a number of other institutions on matters related to data and AI.

He is concurrently Senior Advisor for AI to Singapore’s Corrupt Investigation Practices Bureau (CPIB), where he externally advises the Bureau’s Chief Data Officer and Chief Information Officer on digital transformation journey and strategic development of analytics capabilities and machine learning. He is also Senior Advisor for Data Science to Singapore’s Central Provident Fund Board, working as external advisor to the Board’s Chief Data Officer.

Prior to his appointment at UnionBank, Dr. Hardoon was the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) first appointed Chief Data Officer and Head of the Data Analytics Group, and subsequently MAS’ Special Advisor on Artificial Intelligence. In these roles, he led the development of the AI strategy both for MAS and Singapore’s financial sector as well as efforts in promoting open cross-border data flow.

He also led and established the ASEAN Advanced Analytics of Ernst & Young Advisory Singapore as Director of EY Data, IT Advisory Services, and co-founded Azendian Solutions Pte. Ltd., an information management and data science consultancy between 2013 and 2017. He was also Head of Analytics at SAS Institute Ltd. Singapore from 2010 to 2013.

Dr. Hardoon is an Academic Council Member of the Global Fintech Institute (GFI) in Singapore, where he oversees the academic matters of the Chartered FinTech Professional (CFtP) Programme, which is jointly developed by the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), and the GFI.

He is also Visiting Faculty at the Sim Kee Boon Institute for Financial Economics at Singapore Management University (SMU) and a Board Member of SMU’s School of Accountancy Data Analytics Advisory Board; Executive Education Fellow at the Advanced Computing for Executives (ACE) of the School of Computing at the National University of Singapore where he advises on data, machine learning and artificial intelligence from concept to practice cross industry, and Executive Education Fellow at SUSS, where he advises on fintech and AI-related teaching and research activities.

In addition, he is an Honorary Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Computational Statistics and Machine Learning at University College London.

Dr. Hardoon is a published author. He co-penned the book “Getting Started with Business Analytics: Insightful Decision-Making” and is a contributor to three other books related to data and AI. He is also a contributor to various news outfits including Singapore’s The Business Times, The Straits Times, and Moody’s Analytics.

He also regularly speaks at events and conferences, the most recent of which are speaking engagements with The Asset, the Institute of International Finance, and SGInnovate, to name a few.

Dr. Hardoon is a graduate of Royal Halloway, the University of London with First-Class Honors B.Sc. in Computer Science and AI, and a holder of a PhD in Machine Learning from the University of Southampton School of Electronics and Computer Science United Kingdom.