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Say hi to Artie, Simplicity's AI investment advice-giving chatbot (plus: we try to chat)

Simplicity, the nonprofit KiwiSaver provider which owns shares in the top 50 listed companies in New Zealand, has announced it is getting into the AI game with a chatbot named Artie. But is it really a smart investment? Plus: we try to chat with Artie, and what other companies are also doing.

Simplicity’s launch of Artie comes as the company aims to aggressively roll out multiple artificial intelligence (AI) platforms over the next two years.

Allegedly, Artie, is able to answer member questions online. “Artie’s a week old, and already learning quickly,” says Simplicity founder Sam Stubbs.

All pretty standard there. But what happens if Artie’s stumped? Stubbs doesn’t hesitate to answer. “A customer centre will follow up with the questions that can’t be answered,” he says.

“This is the first stage of our AI-driven robo-advice and education platform,” says Stubbs. “We want to make it available to all Kiwis, and third parties, at very low cost. Artie will ultimately provide personalised advice, and where the situation is complex, we’ll refer clients to fee-based independent financial advisors. It will take a couple of years to fully achieve, and we’ll need to be licensed to give advice, but it’s all doable.”

Simplicity has been working under the radar for six months to develop Artie, supported by specialist firm Jude. It intends to make its platform open source, so others can adopt it if they wish to provide third-party advice.

Sam Stubbs.

“Open Source is the best way to get a lot of transparent advice and education into the hands of all New Zealanders,” Stubbs says. “It’s necessary given the range and inconsistency of advice delivered via many traditional channels. We need to learn from the Australian experience,” he claims, adding the Australian regulator, ASIC, have admonished Australian banks for giving out poor financial advice.

The idea with Artie, says Stubbs, is to avoid that – and to offer good advice at lower cost. “As a non-profit, we’re getting on with providing a financial advice platform that people can trust,” he says. “AI and open banking are a threat to business models based on outdated distribution networks and expensive and excessive marketing.”

Artie is available on Simplicity’s website, and is integrated with Facebook. It usually starts up automatically when visiting the site.

We tried chatting with Artie. Unfortunately, the conversation turned out to be… less than enlightening.

Clearly, Artie still has a lot to learn. But it's an example of the kind of innovation that's changing the financial sector – and hopefully Artie will get there someday. So long as it doesn't learn like Tay.

Listen to this podcast with Amazon's Alayna Van Dervort on using AI for good:

Artie is far from the only development in the AI financial and business advice space. Artie's launch also comes as MYOB has been developing MYOB Advisor, an AI-enabled tool designed to revolutionise the way accountants and bookkeepers advise their clients. MYOB Advisor is integrated into the platform that partners currently use and turns data into written sentences to simply explain business performance.

Check out this podcast with Intela's Asa Cox on Farrago and "unsexy" (but still very cool) AI:

According to MYOB, there is significant demand among small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for business advice. MYOB CEO Tim Reed says MYOB Advisor is the first step towards helping accountants, bookkeepers and their clients to unlock more of their business goals. “We know that accountants and bookkeepers want to grow their advisory services, and MYOB Advisor is one way they can offer greater value to their clients,” he says. “MYOB Advisor frees accountants and bookkeepers’ time while also assisting with actionable business outcomes.”

MYOB Advisor uses AI and natural language generation (NLG), giving natural language descriptions of a business’ financial position, which can be customised by accountants and bookkeepers based on their own knowledge and experience with their SME client. “We see the coming years as an exciting time for accountants, bookkeepers and small business,” says Reed. “The industry is transforming rapidly, bringing new ways for our partners and their clients to evolve with it and raising the bar for their own business success.”

MYOB Advisor is currently in pilot phase, with general release set for mid-2018.

Hear this podcast with Touch Tech CEO Andrew Smith about SAM, the artificial intelligence-powered virtual politician that may one day actually run for office:

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