Clara Durodié is founder and CEO of Cognitive Finance Group, a consultancy and investment company focused on applied artificial intelligence (A.I) in financial services. She lives and breathes A.I, and is a global thought leader on the technology in the world of finance. She has served in leadership roles in European asset and wealth management in the UK, Switzerland and Luxembourg.
In this week’s Success Story with Catherine Robson, Clara busts myths around A.I; explaining how the technology is creating a seismic shift in financial services with radical customer personalization. She also reveals that the secret to her stellar career success is having a great sense of humour.
Clara wants to get something clear right up front. The image of a strange humanoid robot that springs to mind when we hear the words ‘artificial Intelligence’ have nothing to do with the applied A.I in the financial services industry.
“Let’s just get this absolutely right. Applied A.I isn’t some bizarre creature which pops out of laptops, it’s just a piece of software. It’s a very intelligent, very powerful piece of software and we need to adjust it and make it to help us and help our businesses grow,” explains Clara.
Clara has observed a level of both fear and apathy amongst global financial services firms about AI, slowing down the decision-making process around adopting the technology. It can prove to be an expensive delay, one that could put companies behind more forward-thinking, customer focused competitors, Clara believes.
A.I isn’t just a game changer for financial services, Clara believes it’s actually the only option to increase customer trust, productivity and efficiency at large scale. The technology creates the opportunity for radical personalisation engagement; the client receives a completely customised experience, in real time, when they need it. For example, a client can go online and apply for a mortgage on a Sunday night at 7pm and still receive a fully customised experience from their banking institution.
“To be able to deliver at that level of personalisation at any point in time, 24/7, this technology is a perfect framework to use,” explains Carla.
“It’s the first time ever, in my view, that this industry has the ability, has a tool, to truly, actively and positively engage with our clients on a personalised basis.”
An analysis of FTSE 100 Financial Services Board of Directors found that only 10% of all members on those boards has technical expertise in the AI technology space.
“Boards are slowly waking up to the reality they need specialists that understand the specific sector operational challenges. What A.I means in financial services in terms of applicability, strategic implications and what boards need to do in order to embrace this successfully,” says Clara.
Her expertise in wealth management, A.I and neurosciences makes Clara a rare breed in the tech finance world. She’s a sought after thought leader for global speaking engagements and scoped her PhD research which sits at the intersection of A.I, wealth management and neuroscience.
“When you’re passionate, like I am and live and breathe A.I in order to be able to build models and systems to truly serve our customers well in financial services, you need to understand how the human brain operates,” she explains.
It’s getting her brain and body in the right state every morning with exercise and meditation that helps Clara tackle the challenges of working across multiple disciplines.
“Exercise is half an hour of high intensity training. I’m not a fan of going to a gym, I just do it in the living room and it’s done.”
Clara also mediates daily, simply focusing on her breath and observing what happens in her body for a several minutes.
Clare admits her sense of humour is the secret to building strong relationships, particularly in the male dominated wealth management industry.
“I never wanted to compromise in ways of securing progression in my career and I noticed that a sense of humour and engagement got me out of quite a lot of rather difficult situations,” she observes.
“When you appeal to people’s sense of humour, you break the ice, you get them to relax and see things a different way.”