Meet the virtual assistant catching fire across finance

Meet the virtual assistant catching fire across finance

With every major technology vendor now offering a virtual assistant, one Australian start-up is taking data science to the world

Team Hyper Anna — Sam Zheng; Kent Tian and Natalie Nguyen

Team Hyper Anna — Sam Zheng; Kent Tian and Natalie Nguyen

In a ringing endorsement of the product, Finkeldey advised the C-suite to consider Hyper Anna as a viable alternative strategy to interpreting company data.

“CIOs and the C-suite leaders they support should consider Hyper Anna,” Finkeldey added.

“In particular, CMOs and CCOs [chief customer officers] who are struggling to get timely responses from different business units and want to avoid duplicating analytic initiatives across the enterprise may benefit from this product.”

According to Finkeldey, users with specific and regular requirements for timely reporting, particularly in relation to specific customer initiatives or marketing campaigns, could benefit from the use of Anna.

“The most popular use cases in financial services are to empower sales and marketing employees to design initiatives to drive better results,” Finkeldey added.

Business benefits

Today, virtual assistants learn from interaction, and the way Hyper Anna is introduced to a business is what makes its initial use highly effective.

Prior to being widely deployed across an organisation, small user groups representing different parts of the business are put together.

These teams will use the application for two weeks which will train the AI and make Hyper Anna able to understand 85 per cent of questions asked in the first attempt.

The result is an application which aims to address the top challenge in the industry — the shortage of data scientists within financial institutions.

Furthermore, Hyper Anna delivers a tool that can be accessed by all individuals within an organisation to address a challenge usually left to top management.

“Hyper Anna is taking this a step further by delivering access to all roles inside the organisation,” Finkeldey added.

“It removes the silos associated with data scientists in banking and investment services, where middle and lower management employees are removed from daily operations.”

Even though Hyper Anna can work across verticals and industries, the virtual assistant currently focuses on financial services.

“With any AI agent, you really want to focus the training on a particular domain and become the best software solution to solve that particular problem,” Nguyen explained.

While not discounting a move into other verticals within the next 2–3 years, Nguyen acknowledged that being named a cool vendor by Gartner is a “signal that we should be looking into other regions”.

Since inception, the start-up has been building a global strategy, refining and retuning priorities over time.

Currently, Hyper Anna already operates in Hong Kong, with plans to move into other markets such as Singapore, China and even the US.

From a technological standpoint, expansion will come in parallel with broadening Anna’s horizon in terms of languages she currently speaks, alongside a deeper knowledge of the global financial market.

And it appears that the industry is happy to go along for the ride, with the company recently raising $16 million in Series A funding, which will be key to realising international expansion ambitions.

Driven by venture capital firm Sequoia China, the investment round also counted significant investments from Airtree Ventures, Westpac Reinventure and IAG Firemark Ventures, with both Westpac and IAG two of Hyper Anna’s early customers in Australia.

“The fact that some of our investors are also our customers, gives us great confidence in the company, in ourselves, and the product,” Nguyen added.

Taking aim at IBM Watson

Despite increased popularity among customers across Australia and beyond, Hyper Anna’s biggest challenge comes in the form of IBM Watson.

Specifically, the start-up remains challenged to compete head-on with the brand recognition that Watson carries in the enterprise, with banking institutions already using the software.

Furthermore, in June 2017, Big Blue launched its first suite of cognitive solutions focused on helping financial institution professionals manage regulatory and fiduciary responsibilities powered by Watson.

So far, Watson has already been trained on 60,000 regulatory citations with the help of IBM’s subsidiary Promontory Financial Group, which specialises in risk management and regulatory compliance.

IBM is sourcing the expertise of professionals in specific sectors, before combining this knowledge with the power of cognitive computing to “teach” Watson specifics of the financial industry.

And let’s not forget, Watson is also already trained in healthcare and cyber security. But despite this, several start-ups are focusing on the development of cognitive agents, bots that can handle the first point of contact of any organisation.

The objective is to provide a personalised point of contact even though it is being provided by artificial intelligence.

Perhaps crucially however, applications such as Anna can target the big players in town, working down through the mid-market and into the small business sector, unlike an enterprise-centric Watson.

“The idea behind Anna is that all businesses, regardless of scope or size, deserve to have access to data scientists to drive value from the data they create and own,” Nguyen said.

In short, Hyper Anna saw a gap in the market, and is subsequently focusing solely on having the best virtual data scientist specialised in a specific market.

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Tags MicrosoftfinanceAIWatsonvirtual assistantHyper Anna

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