Why Tencent thinks AI could transform finance

For Tim Leung, Tencent’s product and technology director, artificial intelligence is the standout technology set to disrupt finance.
There are so many exciting new technologies these days: from the Internet of Things (IoT) to blockchain and big data. But which looks set to change society the most in the next five years?
Easy, thinks Tim Leung, Tencent’s product and technology director. Artificial intelligence (AI).
At an event during Hong Kong Fintech Week on Tuesday, he gave FinanceAsia a brief insight into how he believes AI will help shift the world of finance.
Trust lies at the heart of global finance; from the establishment of fiat money to the development of credible fiscal and monetary policies and business strategies, counterparty risk, belief in the rule of law and the value of a contract, and so on. It's everywhere, underpinning the whole edifice.
And with the development of AI, people will be able to verify things more easily and build up trust faster than ever before.
One key aspect of this AI-driven revolution is facial recognition technology, which looks set to become the next chapter in China's AI development.
Tencent, Leung said, has already started using AI facial recognition technology in Shandong province to help with social security payments. Some elderly citizens in the northern coastal province used to have to spend a day on the road getting to their respective government offices to claim their social security benefits, he said, just to make sure no one else falsely claimed the money. But now, with the help of AI, they can just input their facial images into the system and the verification process can be done remotely after that.
AI technology is also helping to quicken the payment process.
That's really important in the context of consumer finance, where maximising convenience can be the key to a purchase, and in other ways too, such as with the time-consuming business of work expenses. Collecting invoices, submitting the relevant data, and waiting for someone to verify them one by one and approve reimbursement can be a chore, but with AI technology it should be possible to automate much of the process and facilitate faster payment, Leung said.
As the integration of the internet with everyday life continues apace and makes life easier in multiple ways, the boundary between traditional finance and so-called new finance is becoming increasingly blurred. 
There are many examples of the two types of businesses collaborating, Leung said. Even so, he added, the disruptive influence of new technology is bearing down on finance and forcing changes in way business is done more quickly than in other industries. The technology is developing so fast that both the regulatory environment and traditional financial institutions are sometimes struggling to keep up. 
As an internet company, Leung believes Tencent has the advantage of being able to stay ahead of those fintech trends. 


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