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Citi warns AI puts banks’ customer support at risk: ‘can quickly go wrong’

Citi's NYC-based Promiti Dutta
Citi's NYC-based Promiti Dutta

Generative artificial intelligence is giving banks an unprecedented tech boost, driving them towards more efficient data-driven decision making.

For Citi that is not any different, according to the bank’s head of analytics technology and innovation, Promiti Dutta.

However, Dutta told delegates at a recent event in New York City that all of the largest banks in the US – including Citi – still think it is too risky to launch an external, customer-facing, AI-powered bot.

Deploying generative AI externally, namely to directly communicate with customers via a support chatbot, the industry is not ready, she said at the recent VB AI Impact Tour tech conference.

“Things can go wrong very quickly, there’s a still a lot to be learned.”

Promiti Dutta, Citi

There has been a lot of controversy recently about how LLMs ‘hallucinate’, or in other words, make up stuff.

This can “problematic” for banks and financial services where precision and accurateness are paramount. “There is no room for creativity,” New York City-based Dutta said.

“In an industry where every single customer interaction really matters, and everything we do has to build trust with customers, we can’t afford anything going wrong with any interaction,” she shared.

Dutta acknowledged that some industries and sectors are more suited for LLMs to communicate externally, such as in e-commerce, advertising or entertainment.

If an LLM suggests the wrong shopping experience, “a customer isn’t likely to get too upset with that,” Dutta explained.

“But if we tell you to get a loan product that you don’t necessarily want or need, you lose a little bit of interest in us because it’s like, ‘oh, my bank really doesn’t understand who I am’.”

“All of a sudden, everyone wants to solve everything with Gen AI.”

Promiti Dutta, Citi

Citi has implemented and integrated elements of ‘conversational AI’, even before generative AI came to the scene two years ago. In that respect, the technological developments are evolving at unprecedented speed, Dutta noted.

“When I joined Citi four and a half years ago, data science or analytics before I even talk about AI, was often an afterthought,” she reflected.

‘We used to think: we will use analysis to prove a point that the business already had in mind. The advent of Gen AI was a big paradigm shift for us,” Dutta continued.

“It actually put data and analytics at the forefront of everything. All of a sudden, everyone wants to solve everything with Gen AI.”

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