UnionBank on keeping banking relevant with data science and artificial intelligence – Manila Bulletin

UnionBank on keeping banking relevant with data science and artificial intelligence – Manila Bulletin

When we talk about finances, there are two technical terms that most Filipinos dread not discussing: Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (DSAI). Generally speaking, Filipino consumers have this fear that anything related to DSAI, in their finances most especially, equates to privacy intrusion and instability, primarily based on their misconception that Data Science is just about data collection. While Data Science and Artificial Intelligence are not one and the same, the use of these technologies can help businesses achieve their goals of helping their customers through data insights. 

As the country’s leading bank, Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) embarks on a digital transformation journey, they are investing in talent, infrastructure, and much-needed resources to bring financial services innovation with the help of DSAI.

I recently had the chance to have a one-on-one interview with Dr. David Hardoon, Chief Data and AI Officer of UnionBank to talk about how important DSAI is to his organization and how it keeps banking relevant, and how he sees the future of banking in the country will be.

Leveling Up Depositor Confidence

I asked Dr. Hardoon about the bank’s approach to leveling up the confidence of its depositors when we talk about using DSAI as a value-adding component to their operations.

According to Dr. Hardoon, “We are not collecting data just for the sake of collecting data. We are using it (data) to provide a value-added service or value to the consumers. At the end of the day, a potential reason for fear or concern is a true understanding of what is it (DSAI) doing and what it is about — that is the starting point. How do we make sure that finance is relevant?”

He made an emphasis on making sure that they, as a financial institution, understand what the consumers want rather than just offering them a box of products that they may not need at all.

Dr. Hardoon added that it is also important to provide the assurance that governance, control, and transparency — what is being done and how it is being done — are in place to make their clients understand why it is important to use technologies like DSAI in their operations.

I also asked Dr. Hardoon if he can share which parts of the bank’s operations are DSAI widely used. According to him, it will be in customer services (starting with marketing), operations (call center, app, and website), and risk management (detecting and preventing a potential risk). Identifying which information is relevant to their customers is important to them.

Aside from being the bank’s Chief Data and AI Officer, he is also the Chief Data & Innovation Officer of Aboitiz Group, as well as the Managing Director of Aboitiz Data Innovation. Prior to these roles here in the Philippines, Dr. Hardoon was the Chief Data Officer and Special Advisor (AI) at the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

On Trustworthy AI Initiative 

Trustworthy AI is an initiative that describes Artificial Intelligence that is lawful, ethical, and technically robust, and is based on the idea that AI will reach its full potential when trust can be established in each stage of its lifecycle: from design, development, deployment, and use.

I asked Dr. Hardoon about his take on the Trustworthy AI Initiative, and according to him, “I’m actually a big believer of it. The reason why we may not be using AI to the possibility that we can is because of trust.”

But how do we go about establishing trust? According to Dr. Hardoon, it is a whole package that involves multiple layers: from governance to controls, to transparency and communications, humans must always be in the loop (to ensure that AI won’t go crazy).

Future of DSAI in the Daily Lives of Filipinos

Looking at the DSAI spectrum, Dr. Hardoon sees the use of these technologies as an enabler in the daily lives of Filipinos. According to him, the use of DSAI will allow Filipinos to have more time to enjoy their lives and preempt the desires that they may want in the fields of finance, power, retail, etc. Dr. Hardoon adds that only the geeks talk about DSAI, while the rest of the world enjoys using it (now), and there will be more seeded functionalities and services enabled by AI soon.





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