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Banks say growing reliance on Big Tech for AI carries new risks

Banks say growing reliance on Big Tech for AI carries new risks

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Banks say growing reliance on Big Tech for AI carries new risks

The boom in artificial intelligence will increase banks’ dependence on big U.S. tech firms, creating new risks for the industry, European banking executives said.

The excitement around using artificial intelligence (AI) in financial services – widely used already for detecting fraud and money laundering – has soared since the launch of OpenAI’s viral chatbot ChatGPT in late 2022 as banks examine ways to deploy generative AI.

But at a gathering of fintech executives in Amsterdam this week, some expressed concerns that the amount of computing power needed to develop AI capabilities would make banks rely even more on a small number of tech providers.

ING’s (INGA.AS), opens new tab chief analytics officer, Bahadir Yilmaz, who is in charge of the Dutch bank’s AI work, told Reuters he expected to rely on Big Tech companies “more and more going forward”, for infrastructure and machinery.

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“You will always need them because sometimes the machine power that is needed for these technologies is huge. It’s also not feasible for a bank to build this tech,” he said.

Banks’ dependency on a small number of tech companies was “one of the biggest risks”, ING’s Yilmaz said, emphasising that European banks in particular needed to ensure they could move between different tech providers and avoid what he called “vendor lock-in”.

Britain last year proposed rules to regulate financial firms’ heavy reliance on external technology companies, such as Microsoft, Google, IBM and Amazon. Regulators are worried that problems at a single cloud computing company could potentially bring down services across many financial institutions.

“AI requires huge amounts of compute and the only way that you’re going to be able to access that compute (computing power) sensibly is from Big Tech,” Joanne Hannaford, who leads technology strategy at Deutsche Bank’s (DBKGn.DE), opens new tab corporate bank, told an audience at the Money20/20 conference earlier this week.

AI was top of the agenda at the Amsterdam conference.

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The CEO of French AI startup Mistral AI, seen as France’s answer to OpenAI, told attendees there were “synergies” between its GenAI products and financial services.

“We see a lot of opportunities in creating analysis and monitoring information … which is something that bankers like to do,” Arthur Mensch said.

ING is testing an AI chatbot currently used for 2.5% of incoming customer service chats. Asked how long it would be until the chatbot could handle half or more of customer service conversations, Yilmaz said within a year.

In its first statement on AI, the European Union’s securities watchdog said last week that banks and investment firms cannot shirk boardroom responsibility and have a legal obligation to protect customers when using AI. It warned that the technology is likely to have a significant impact on retail investor protection. 

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ByteDance confirms layoff plan at its Indonesian unit

ByteDance confirms layoff plan at its Indonesian unit

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ByteDance confirms layoff plan at its Indonesian unit

China’s ByteDance will lay off staff at its Indonesian unit following a deal where it bought a local e-commerce firm and combined it with its TikTok operation, a spokesperson said on Friday.

ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, did not say how many employees would be affected. Bloomberg had earlier reported there would be 450 jobs cut.

In January ByteDance completed a deal to buy a majority stake in Tokopedia, an Indonesian e-commerce firm, from the GoTo group.

ByteDance spokesperson Nuraini Razak told Reuters in a statement the company would “make necessary adjustments” as a result of the combination of TikTok and Tokopedia.

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“We identified areas to strengthen our organisation and better align our teams with company goals,” she said, adding the company would “aim to support employees throughout this transition”.

ByteDance had its own e-commerce operation in Indonesia via its TikTok app, but that was banned under an Indonesian rule that social media applications could not operate as an e-commerce platform.

Tokopedia is one of the leading e-commerce platforms in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

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Indonesia minister threatens to shut down X over adult content

Indonesia minister threatens to shut down X over adult content

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Indonesia minister threatens to shut down X over adult content

Indonesia is prepared to shut down social media platform X if it does not comply with a regulation barring adult content, the country’s communications minister said on Friday. Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, has strict rules that ban the sharing online of content deemed obscene.

Minister Budi Arie Setiadi told Reuters he had sent a warning letter to X related to this matter.

“We will certainly shut its services down,” he said, pointing to Indonesia’s electronic information and transaction (ITE) law that can carry a six-year jail sentence if someone spreads pornographic content.

His comments in an interview come after the social media platform recently updated its policies to permit consensually produced adult content.

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X, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, has not responded to Indonesia’s warning letter, Budi said, adding the government would send more letters before deciding on a potential closure.

X, formerly known as Twitter, did not immediately respond to a request by Reuters for comment.

Indonesians are big users of social media and X has 24.85 million users in the country, according to data gathering business Statista.

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Japan watchdog recommends action on MUFG units over sharing of client data

Japan watchdog recommends action on MUFG units over sharing of client data

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Japan's securities watchdog recommended on Friday that the banking and securities units of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group opens new tab (MUFG) be penalised for what it said was unauthorised sharing of client information. The Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission (SESC) made the recommendation to the banking regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), which hands out such punishments in Japan. The recommendation, which was widely expected, followed the SESC's investigation into MUFG's banking arm, MUFG Bank, and its two brokerage ventures with Morgan Stanley (MS.N), opens new tab. The investigation found that confidential client information had been shared between MUFG Bank and one of the two securities firms on at least 26 occasions between 2020 and 2023. MUFG Bank also illegally offered preferential lending rates to clients that did business with the group's two securities brokerages, the SESC said. Japan's "firewall" regulations prohibit banks and securities companies in the same group from sharing customer data with one another without the customer's consent. The investigation found no evidence of insider trading, but monitoring and internal controls were lacking, the SESC said. MUFG group companies will make every effort to strengthen control systems in light of the recommendation and will take measures to prevent recurrence, the parent company said in a statement. The two brokerages were established in 2010, two years after MUFG invested in Morgan Stanley at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008. MUFG owned around 23% of Morgan Stanley as of March 2024.

Japan’s securities watchdog recommended on Friday that the banking and securities units of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group  opens new tab (MUFG) be penalised for what it said was unauthorised sharing of client information.

The Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission (SESC) made the recommendation to the banking regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), which hands out such punishments in Japan.

The recommendation, which was widely expected, followed the SESC’s investigation into MUFG’s banking arm, MUFG Bank, and its two brokerage ventures with Morgan Stanley (MS.N), opens new tab.

The investigation found that confidential client information had been shared between MUFG Bank and one of the two securities firms on at least 26 occasions between 2020 and 2023.

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MUFG Bank also illegally offered preferential lending rates to clients that did business with the group’s two securities brokerages, the SESC said.

Japan’s “firewall” regulations prohibit banks and securities companies in the same group from sharing customer data with one another without the customer’s consent.

The investigation found no evidence of insider trading, but monitoring and internal controls were lacking, the SESC said.

MUFG group companies will make every effort to strengthen control systems in light of the recommendation and will take measures to prevent recurrence, the parent company said in a statement.

The two brokerages were established in 2010, two years after MUFG invested in Morgan Stanley at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008. MUFG owned around 23% of Morgan Stanley as of March 2024.

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