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There is so much excitement around the potential for artificial intelligence and machine learning in finance to transform the way credit is priced, capital is allocated and products are sold that it requires a clear head to separate the conceptual debate over long-term possibilities from the reality of what is actually going on.

In July, Christopher Woolard, executive director of strategy and competition at the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), spoke at The Alan Turing Institute's AI ethics in the financial sector conference.

“Superficial debate around AI and machine learning often descends into talk of robot armies and a dystopian decline in human agency,” says Woolard. “But are we really living through a crisis of algorithmic control? The answer, at least when it comes to the use of AI in financial services, is: not yet.”

The FCA recently carried out a joint survey with the Bank of England to assess the current state of play. “What we found was that the use of AI in the firms we regulate is best described as nascent. The technology is employed largely for back-office functions, with customer-facing technology largely in the exploration stage.”

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