Daily Review: Tech/Finance Companies are Launching Tools to Democratize AI

With AI becoming the most defining technology in the financial services industry and beyond, it comes as no surprise that tech corporations are heavily investing in existing AI talent and expanding the pool of employees focusing on AI/ML research and development. Interest from tech corporations for establishing themselves as major AI companies comes from the strategy to make AI the operating system across applications, products, services, and solutions. AI is already part of a suite of solutions at Microsoft, Apple, and Google.

As The Street shares, Microsoft products leveraging ML include Office 365, the Cortana assistant, Power BI business intelligence software, Dynamics business apps, and the latest version of its SQL Server database. Apple products that fit the bill include voice assistant Siri, the Photos app (object/scene-detection), the HomePod speaker (audio-optimization), and iPhone/iPad cameras (autofocus and lighting effects). Google, Microsoft, and Amazon’s cloud platforms each support services for building ML models, as well as APIs providing access to existing models for things like text, speech, and photo analysis. Furthermore, Apple and Google have launched APIs for iOS and Android respectively that let apps run ML models on a device.

A growing number of companies – tech and finance – are launching tools for talented entrepreneurs and developers to explore the technology of the future.

Pick #1. New Mastercard Service Speeds Adoption of Artificial Intelligence

With the launch of AI Express, Mastercard will help companies develop a tailored AI model that answers real business questions and can be swiftly deployed. Interest in AI is strong: More than 80% of Fortune 500 CEOs see the technology as very or extremely important to their company’s future.

If data is the oil that powers the digital economy, artificial intelligence is the refinery, said Ajay Bhalla, Chief Security Solutions Officer at Mastercard.

The AI Express program was designed to help companies address key business priorities, including:

  • AML

  • Fraud risk management

  • Cybersecurity

  • Credit risk prediction

  • Operational efficiencies

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Pick #2. Apple’s Core ML 2 Is 30% Faster, Cuts AI Model Sizes by up to 75%

Apple announced Core ML 2, a new version of its suite of machine learning apps for iOS devices, at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2018. Apple claims Core ML 2 is 30% faster, thanks to a technique called batch prediction. The toolkit will let developers shrink the size of trained machine learning models by up to 75% through quantization, the company said.

Apple also announced Create ML, a new GPU-accelerated tool for native AI model training on Macs. The tool supports vision and natural language, as well as custom data. And because it’s built in Swift, you can use drag-and-drop programming interfaces like Xcode Playgrounds to train models.

Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi explained that it used to take one developer 24 hours to train a model with 20,000 images, but Create ML reduced the training time for the same model to 48 minutes on a MacBook Pro and 18 minutes on an iMac Pro. Create ML also reduced the size of the model from 90 MB to 3 MB.

Core ML is expected to play a key role in Apple’s future hardware products. The company is reportedly developing a chip – the Apple Neural Engine, or ANE – to accelerate computer vision, speech recognition, facial recognition, and other forms of artificial intelligence, and plans to include it in upcoming devices. It will offer third-party developers access to the chip in order to run their own AI, according to Bloomberg.

Read more (+ Create ML. Create machine learning models for use in your app.)

Pick #3. Goldman Sachs Backs Card Issuing, Processing Startup Marqeta

Goldman Sachs has joined a $45 million investment round in Marqeta, a US FinTech company offering technology businesses can use to issue payment cards. The round was led by VC firm ICONIQ Capital. Marqeta is also backed by Visa.

Marqeta will use the funding to grow the business and expand operations internationally, CEO Jason Gardner said.

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Pick #4. Acorns Receives 10,000 Pre-Orders for Its Newly Launched Payments Card and Debit Account

Acorns, the financial management service for micro-investments, is adding a rewards debit card to its arsenal of tools aimed at getting Americans to create balanced stock portfolios for economic health.

Acorns Chief Executive Noah Kerner said the company has already received 10,000 pre-orders for the card. Only 100,000 cards will be available initially, and the first cards will be mailed by November 1, 2018. The debit card works as an Acorns checking account, which is secured by FDIC for up to $250,000.

The debit card comes with Acorns micro-investment and its retirement account built into the card’s services. The card comes with real-time round-ups on all purchases, automatically sending money into users’ Acorns accounts every time they spend.

Linked with Acorns customers’ bank accounts, the card also offers digital direct deposit, mobile check deposit & check sending, free bank-to-bank transfers, and unlimited free or fee-reimbursed withdrawals from automatic teller machines around the country.

Read more.

Pick #5. Adyen Aims for a $1B IPO, Valuing the Payments Startup at up to $8.3B When It Lists on June 13

The Netherlands-based payments startup will be raising between €922 million and €947 million (approximately $1 billion and $1.1 billion) June 5-12, before it opens for trading on the Euronext Amsterdam on June 13 trading as ADYEN. If all goes to plan, the sale will give Adyen a market capitalization of between €6.5 billion and €7.1 billion ($7.6 billion – $8.3 billion).

The 4,189,102 shares being sold valued at €220 and €240 per share represent 12.7% of the company’s issued and operating share capital.

For the year ended December 31, 2017, the company generated net revenue of €218 million, a rise of 38% over the year before, with EBITDA of €99 million, giving it an EBITDA margin of 45.5%. Processed volumes on its platform were €108 billion in the period, compared to just €66 billion in 2016, up 63%. The company counts Uber and Netflix among its customers, and earlier this year it picked up a key client in the form of eBay, which is swapping out spun-out business PayPal as its primary payment provider.

Adyen to date has raised $266 million in outside funding, with other investors including Index (its largest shareholder with a 16.86% holding of the company), Felicis, Temasek, and General Atlantic.

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Pick #6. British FinTech Startup Revolut to Seek US Banking License: CEO

British FinTech startup Revolut plans to apply for a banking license in the United States, Chief Executive Officer Nikolay Storonsky said on Monday. The company raised $250 million at a $1.7 billion valuation in April.

Revolut has been using its latest round of funding to expand aggressively, both geographically and through the launch of new services. Its suite of financial products includes personal loans, cryptocurrencies, and small business banking. It is also in the process of launching a robo-advice product, as well as commission-free stock trading.

Revolut currently has five employees in New York and also plans to set up an office in San Francisco. Globally, it employees 400 people, with plans to double its headcount by the end of the year. It is backed by venture capital firms including DST Global, Index Ventures, and Ribbit Capital.

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Pick #7. Diebold Nixdorf Announces Partnership with Mastercard to Introduce New Digital Transactions to the ATM Channel

Diebold Nixdorf is teaming up with Mastercard to trial two services that provide cash to those who need it: Mastercard Cash Pick-Up™ and Cardless ATM powered by Mastercard.

Mastercard Cash Pick-Up allows banks to deliver cash more quickly, securely and easily to any authenticated consumer – banked or unbanked – through enabled ATMs, without the use of a card. This opens the ATM channel to even the underbanked consumers and allows financial institutions and ATM deployers to increase their revenue through new transaction volumes.

Cardless ATM powered by Mastercard allows account holders to withdraw cash from the nearest ATM using the convenience of their mobile banking app. Once consumers are at the ATM, they can quickly move through the authentication process to receive their cash. Since the majority of the transaction is handled through the banking app and the cloud, sensitive information is never exposed. Ultimately, Cardless ATM by Mastercard makes transactions more secure, convenient, and transparent for consumers.

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Pick #8. TfL Confirms Trams in Croydon Will Go ‘Cashless’

According to TfL, trams in London will go cashless on 16 July 2018.

Currently, operating ticket machines were installed when the tram system opened in 2000 and now have such low usage that it is no longer cost-effective to maintain them or have them replaced. Due to the convenience and value for money of pay-as-you-go using Oyster and contactless payment, only 0.3% of single tram journeys – fewer than 250 single tickets per day – were made using a ticket bought from a tram ticket machine last year. Since the plans were first announced last year, this number has now fallen further to just 66 single tickets a day.

A paper ticket bought from a ticket machine costs £2.60 whereas the equivalent pay-as-you-go single fare with Oyster or contactless just is £1.50.

The vast majority of tram customers already use pay-as-you-go with Oyster or contactless to travel, which is both cheaper than paper tickets and allows customers to use the Mayor’s Hopper fare to make unlimited bus or tram journeys within an hour for £1.50. As very few ticket sales are made using ticket machines, we will be removing the existing cash ticket machines and encouraging customers to switch to pay as you go, Travelcards or Bus & Tram Passes, all of which can quickly be bought from their local Oyster Ticket Stop, online or via the TfL app. – Mark Davis, General Manager of London Trams

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Pick #9. IFC to Invest $60 Million in Bank of Africa to Support SME Lending in Eight African Countries

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, announced a $60 million investment in a regional risk-sharing facility to support Bank of Africa Group’s lending to SMEs in eight African countries.

The investment was made possible with support from the Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility (WEOF), launched by IFC through its Banking on Women Program, and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women. Further support came from the Global SME Finance Facility, a blended-finance partnership among IFC, the UK Department for International Development, and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In sub-Saharan Africa, where roughly 350 million new jobs will be needed in the next 20 years, SMEs account for 30-60% of GDP, and 67% of jobs.

Since its creation in 2012, the Global SME Finance Facility has provided investment and advisory solutions to more than 130 projects in 32 countries, strengthening financial infrastructure in low-income markets. It has committed over $1 billion in investments.

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