At Google Cloud’s biggest event of the year, Google Cloud Next, Google Cloud made a number of announcements with financial services leaders as they modernise their technology stack, migrate to the cloud at scale and deploy gen AI experiences. 

The event reflects the growing importance of cloud services in financial services. By harnessing the power of cloud technology, data, and AI, financial institutions are creating better, more personalised and connected banking experiences that seamlessly blend with their consumers’ financial needs.

Robert Prendergast (RP): What are the current biggest advancements in the use of Cloud services in the Financial Services industry?

Zac Maufe (ZM): Cloud computing is a key enabler of transformation, helping financial institutions scale applications and services more efficiently and quickly than they could on their own bespoke servers and in physical data centres. With the cloud, banks are accelerating their modernisation strategies and unifying data across the enterprise, enabling them to grow their business, build new products, and mitigate risk by gaining insight from the huge amount of data they have. 

Generative AI has ushered in an entirely new era of digital transformation for the financial services industry, piquing the interest of business leaders, who are increasingly recognising its potential to transform their operations and gain a competitive edge. As the enterprise shifts from gen AI experimentation to execution, we’re seeing more pilots move to full-scale production. Gen AI can be used to analyse data and generate insights that can help financial institutions make better decisions. It can help banks improve customer service, increase their efficiency and employee productivity, reduce their costs, and develop new and more personalised products and services. 

RP: What were the big announcements for the Financial Services industry during Google Cloud Next?

ZM: We made a number of significant announcements with key Financial Services customers during Google Cloud Next ’24. Citadel Securities is using Google Cloud to build the next generation of its quantitative research platform, increasing its research productivity and price-performance ratio. Discover Financial Services is bringing gen AI capabilities to nearly 10,000 contact centers agents to improve productivity through intelligent document summarisation, real-time search assistants, and enhanced self-service options. The new capabilities began rolling out in early 2024 and early results show that agents can reduce call handle time and improve policy and procedure search time by as much as 70%. 

Scotiabank is leveraging Google Cloud technology to enhance client and employee experience, strengthen Bank security, and adopt gen AI more quickly. The Bank is using Vertex AI to build an LLM-powered chatbot for improved customer experience, and a LLM-powered Q&A and search for employees providing access to tailored knowledge and streamlining workflows. TD Bank is using Google Cloud infrastructure and top engineering talent to drive new levels of agility, customer-centricity, and engineering innovation, including an expanded relationship on the success of TD Securities Automated Trading using Google Cloud’s high performance GKE capabilities to adapt and quickly respond to changing market and client needs in a fast-paced investment environment. 

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RP: How does Google Cloud Services impact the banking experience of regular people in their day-to-day banking?

ZM: Banks continue to look for ways to improve the customer servicing experience. Google Cloud works with banks of all sizes to create and deliver compelling experiences for consumers. Banks are leveraging Google Cloud’s leading AI technologies for a variety of use cases, from providing personalised financial recommendations tailored for financial wellness to reducing fraud and mitigating financial risk for customers and the banks themselves. 

One of the top use-cases we’re seeing that impact the day-to-day banking experience is Enhanced virtual assistants. This helps customers get accurate answers at speed and scale with less human intervention, by summarising conversations, and automating tasks. Another case use case is personalised financial recommendations, which Improves cross-sell and retention strategies through one-to-one instead of one-to-many messaging. Tailoring financial product recommendations via conversational language that is hyper-personalised and reinforces a “you know me” experience. Thirdly, Financial document search and synthesis. This transforms the home loan experience for borrowers and lenders by automating mortgage document processing – reducing the processing time and streamlining data capture while supporting regulatory and compliance requirements. 

RP: What factors must be considered when approaching language learning towards online chatbots, as banking moves more and more online?

ZM: Customers have become comfortable with interacting with chatbots and can use chatbots to interact with banks while completing other tasks. But, some chatbots remain rules-based and cannot address more complex questions. This is where generative AI can help customers get the answers they need. It excels in finding answers in vast amounts of data, summarising them, and assisting live customer agents or supporting existing AI chatbots. 

In addition to the need for advanced AI technology to improve the chatbot experience, another factor that must be considered in the equation as more banking moves online is that of the customer agent. Live customer agents will continue to play an important role in helping customers with complex transactions.

A good example of this in practice is Discover Financial Services. Discover Financial Services is using Google Cloud’s AI platform, Vertex AI, to empower its nearly 10,000 contact center agents with generative AI-driven tools with capabilities that can help analyse and summarise complex policies and procedures, providing agents with information at their fingertips to answer customer needs. The platform is also providing agents with natural language real-time search assistance to give them access to vast knowledge bases they can refer to during live interactions, enabling them to provide consumers with a superior customer experience. 

RP: How can companies approach AI, Cloud and other evolving solutions and utilise them in a way that is inviting to everyday banking customers?

ZM: According to Google Cloud’s banking survey, the next generation of banking consumers are comfortable with AI and emerging cloud technology. 45% of millennials and Gen Z respondents aged 18-44 said they were either “somewhat comfortable” or “very comfortable” with gen AI-powered applications if they provided better customer experiences. 

We are moving to a stage of adoption where consumers are embracing technology that makes their everyday life easier. According to the survey, AI-driven experiences such as smarter, more helpful AI chatbots (20%), faster and automated credit card application and approval (18%), and a 360-degree view of financial portfolios (16%) were among the top experiences that consumers of all age groups would like to see their banks improve or add. We think this sentiment will continue to increase as banks roll out more personalised experiences.  

RP: What are the key partnerships taking place between cloud services and financial services?

ZM: Google Cloud is making significant investments in the financial services industry vertical. Our goal is to make Google Cloud the platform of choice for the financial services industry. We are combining the same globally scalable Google infrastructure and technology that powers Search, YouTube, Gmail and others with the specialised capabilities of the world’s leading financial services firm. At the core these services are powered by secure and sustainable infrastructure, data analytics, and AI and machine learning. 

We work with financial services companies across the banking, capital markets, insurance, and payments industries. We signed several partnerships and expanded existing ones with firms including Wells Fargo, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, KeyBank, ScotiaBank, TD Bank, Arvest Bank, PayPal, Global Payments, Coinbase and more.