10 December, 2018
The three key tech innovations for LatAm banks in 2019

Artificial intelligence, internet of things, and blockchain will be biggest areas of focus for LatAm banks and fintech startups in the year ahead

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By Katie Llanos-Small

 

Artificial intelligence is set to be a key technology for Latin American financial services in 2019, according to innovation leaders at Latin American banks surveyed by iupana.

Banks and fintechs expect that they will use AI, along with related technologies machine learning and natural language processing, in an increasing variety of ways in 2019.

A popular application of AI will be face recognition for remote account openings, while machine learning can be used for real time sanction screening, said Juan Guerra, head of innovation at Citibanamex.

Institutions that already use the technology are looking at ways to take it further.

“The applications in various industries are immense, and we’re starting to see really exceptional things like autonomous vehicles and bots that are able to hold a fluid conversation with a human,” said Juan Antonio Cabanas, CEO of Lima-based lending startup LatinFintech.

“We already use AI in our credit model, but in 2019 we want to implement machine learning methodologies to further strengthen the process.”

See also: Mexican banks turn to artificial intelligence for loyalty boost

Internet of things

Interactions between the online and offline worlds are another technological innovation in focus for Latin American banks in 2019.

“More than any particular technology, I think the most important change that we will continue seeing is the incorporation of new technology into offline businesses,” Rene Lankenau, chief innovation officer at Mexican lender Banregio, told iupana.

“For example, the way that restaurant operations are changing by taking advantage of recent technologies. Or issues to do with industry 4.0 and the internet of things. These are new ideas in Mexico, that I think that in 2019 will reach a tipping point. The consequence will be that the leaders take off from the rest of the pack.”

Banregio is looking at the ways it can integrate with clients’ offline operational processes, CEO Manuel Rivero told iupana earlier this year. The bank, which predominantly lends to small and mid-sized businesses, aims to increase its value to customers through such integrations.

Blockchain

No list of future financial technologies to watch would be complete without a mention of blockchain.

Indeed, distributed ledger technology “could finally become relevant for wider industry use” in 2019, said Citibanamex’s Guerra.

Yet, although banks are looking at blockchain, enthusiasm over its immediate applications is muted.

For example, Argentina’s Banco Galicia is looking at blockchain, but the bank does not have use cases ready just yet, Fernando Turri, CIO at Banco Galicia, told iupana earlier this month.

“For machine learning, we have use cases already,” said Turri. “When a business is interested in becoming a client, we use tools from Watson and bots via Whatsapp for Business… For blockchain, we still don’t have a clear use case,” he said.

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