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OCBC sets up in-house AI unit with initial investment of S$10m over 3 years

AI Lab@TOV sits within The Open Vault at OCBC, which is led by Pranav Seth (fron), head of e-Business, Business Transformation and Fintech and Innovation Group. Ken Wong, head of AI Lab@TOV (centre), Wu Qiong (left) and Vikash Ranjan (right) comprise the pioneering AI Lab@TOV team.

AN in-house unit to develop artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities has been established by OCBC Bank with an initial investment of S$10 million over three years, the lender said on Wednesday.

AI Lab@TOV, which operates under OCBC's fintech and innovation group, aims to drive the adoption of AI across banking services such as wealth advisory and loans financing.

Headed by Ken Wong, the lab consists of a trio of data scientists. The team aims to double its headcount within a year.

In the past two years, OCBC has employed the use of AI in its operations. It launched the AI-powered chatbot "Emma" in 2016, which was developed by startup Cognicor to respond to customers' queries on home and renovation loans.

Last year, OCBC partnered another fintech firm, Thetaray, to use its AI solution to identify potential suspicious transactions.

The AI solution has reduced the volume of transactions reviewed by anti-money laundering compliance analysts by 35 per cent, and increased the accuracy rate of identifying suspicious transactions by more than four times, OCBC said.

Said Mr Wong: "With the set-up of our very own AI lab, we are able to experiment for the first time with deep learning neural networks and graphics processing units, which are heavily used in the gaming industry and hardly used in banking. This is an exciting new space to be in, especially for banking, and we welcome talent who have the passion to develop something new and fresh for the industry."

Pranav Seth, OCBC's head of e-business, business transformation and fintech and innovation group, said: "We have already enjoyed tremendous success with AI in the past two years - working with fintechs to commercialise AI solutions for transaction monitoring and chatbots - and I believe there is a massive competitive advantage to be gained from being a first mover in this space."

OCBC shares were trading down S$0.12 or 0.9 per cent to S$13.46 as at 1.43pm on Wednesday.