On December 8, Lizzie Chapman, CEO and Co-Founder of ZestMoney, sat down with Simplilearn for a career-oriented discussion, How AI is Changing the Dynamics of Fintech.

How Has ZestMoney Powered Through the Pandemic?

ZestMoney initially was hit by a double whammy: the pandemic spurred a severe lockdown, and the Indian regulators declared that lenders could offer a moratorium on loan repayments. But in the last few months, there has been a big resurgence in business and a strong move to digital transformation.

The two main factors Lizzie cited as crucial to ZestMoney’s surviving the pandemic are:

  • Customer centricity: Putting the customer first made it simple to decide on responses to the pandemic. For example, when the moratorium was announced, it was an easy choice for ZestMoney to offer it to their borrowers, and because of their long-term goodwill with their customers, those customers gave them flexibility in working out ongoing terms for their obligations.
  • Data centricity: In difficult times, there’s no better way to make decisions and make them quickly. ZestMoney is fortunate For example: there wasn’t much data on the pandemic, so ZestMoney had to build its own income shock prediction model to assign a probability to each customer’s likely income decline in the pandemic. As an AI-driven company, the more data that became available to ZestMoney, the better the model performed, and it turned out to be extremely accurate.

ZestMoney’s business model is fully automated. Where traditional lenders had to communicate changes in policy to branch managers and staff, ZestMoney was able to update policy in its app through technology almost instantly. Furthermore, ZestMoney doesn’t handle cash, and its total focus on digital payments made it easier to continue operations and to offer benefits to customers.

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How Will AI Impact Careers?

Lizzie strongly believes that whatever career you are in or industry you work in, AI will play a decisive role in your future. AI in fintech goes beyond the simple example of an AI-driven recommendation engine for ecommerce (“People who bought this also bought…”).

AI has long been used in credit risk assessment in lending, allowing ZestMoney to create many credit risk models (thirteen, so far) to apply to different transaction scenarios. The advantage of AI over a human credit analyst looking at customer documentation is that AI can use far more data in its decisionmaking than a human can handle, and it’s very fast in both making decisions and adapting to new information. An example is dynamic line management, where ZestMoney

But it goes well beyond credit assessment. For example, in its fraud detection operations, ZestMoney acquired a company that offered an Instagram application to let users pick out photos that most looked like themselves. ZestMoney saw that this would allow them to create automated facial recognition to let their app verify a customer’s face and photo ID without having to appear in person. This kind of creative connection between seemingly unrelated AI applications is an important aspect of managing an AI-driven business.

Collections is an area where ZestMoney applies AI in extremely creative ways. One aspect of the model predicts the time of day when a consumer is most likely to open an email or answer a phone call. Another aspect matches customers with ZestMoney representatives who speak the same language, a great benefit in India where so many languages are spoken.

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It may be counterintuitive to think that automated, machine-operated processes are more personalized and customer-friendly than human-powered processes. However, ZestMoney has found that its AI-driven, data-centric approach has allowed it to personalize its services and offer better service and products to its customers.

What Will Be the Technology Disruptors in Fintech?

With the rise of AI-driven processes throughout the digital economy, there is a rising concern for ethical AI that is fair and discreet. ZestMoney believes strongly that a customer’s data is the customer’s property, so it does not collect or use customer data except by customer consent. It can offer trade-offs for different levels of customer benefits in return for different levels of access to the customer’s data, and that puts the customer in control.

Another rising concern among the general public is whether AI will automate away jobs.  ZestMoney has a lot of experience with the impact of AI on their workforce, and it has created many new job opportunities in the company. ZestMoney is always looking for qualified AI professionals and data scientists.

Another tool that uses AI to improve working conditions looks at employee engagement. The tool lets the company give employees more interesting and challenging work to keep them fully engaged with their jobs.

Over time, it’s possible that AI will take over the tasks of basic coding. Software developers would be wise to keep improving their knowledge and skills to move up the design and development chain to jobs above low-level coding.

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What Jobs Are Most in Demand?

Lizzie’s advice is that job candidates look at their abilities, aptitudes, and attitudes. It’s important to consider what kind of industry, discipline, and job role you are suited for by skill, interest, and experience.

Lizzie advises that for those moving into AI, it’s important to gain practical experience solving real-world problems. She recommends that candidates aim at jobs where they can gain that experience and then move up. ZestMoney has also found that it’s easier to train an engineer in their business than to train people with a business background to be data scientists and AI developers, so it’s important to learn the engineering skills to get that foundation before making the lateral move into AI.

She recommends that candidates looking to grow in a career area should follow successful practitioners in that area on Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s not so much about networking as it is about learning from people who are willing to share what they know about their field. 

Lizzie says it’s been a very long time since she was bored in her work. She believes that fintech is a field that is stimulating, engaging, and impactful in customers lives. She advises that professionals strive to remain evergreen by continually learning and pursuing opportunities that offer future growth (even if they seem like sideways career moves).

For more Simplilearn career resources on AI, including articles and ebooks, see https://www.simplilearn.com/resources. And if you are ready to become a learning individual by gaining specific skills and certifications for a career in AI, check out the courses and Master’s programs Simplilearn offers in that category.

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