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Since their debut in 2008, financial robo-advisors have rapidly attracted attention and investment. Today they manage more than $50 billion worth of assets, which could grow to $7 trillion within the next decade. Some people, it seems, are comfortable with letting robots handle their money. What else might robots manage?
One surprising answer is legal affairs. ROSS Intelligence uses a cloud-based solution to automate legal research and save lawyers time. Launched in 2013 as an entry in an AI contest for universities, ROSS is now used by several high-profile firms, including industry titan Latham & Watkins.
As of last winter, Australians involved in minor driving or criminal legal proceedings have been able to turn to Robot Lawyers Australia for free assistance. After filing out a detailed questionnaire, users receive a robotically-generated email which organizes the legally pertinent information in their case for easy presentation in court. Though a long way from a replacement for a real lawyer, the robot still provides valuable legal assistance to people who can’t access legal services. This makes Australia’s congested criminal court system run a little smoother. In the United Kingdom, a similar robo-lawyer can help people appeal parking tickets. A user fills out a survey on the details of the incident and the bot sends back an appeals letter that can be mailed in to court.
Other professional services are also in the early stages of automation. Last summer, Australian financial robo-advisor firm Stockspot launched a partner program targeting accountants and other professionals. Accountants maintain their client relationships, but turn over some of the routine management work to Stockspot’s automated tools. The service can notify accountants when the situations of their clients change and the accountant might need to reach out.
In early February, Dutch bank ABN Amro announced a partnership with book-keeping startup InvoiceSharing aimed at small- and medium-sized companies. The system uses a robo-accountant to check invoices, export them to accounts, and generate journal entries. It is currently being tested at around 20 companies.
Algorithms like those powering financial robo-advisors are finding uses in all sorts of places. Take medicine. Last year in New York, for instance, medical researchers built a learning algorithm to analyze clinical notes from 200,000 cancer patients for unnoticed patterns. IBM’s Watson AI is being trained by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, also in New York, to help doctors form individualized, evidence-based treatment plans for patients. The British firm Babylon Health offers clinical consultation through a medical AI.
What about insurance? Recent Accenture market research found that most customers are open to robo-advice for insurance purchases. The report included a survey of almost 33,000 consumers in the U.S., Canada, and 16 other markets. Nearly 75 percent said they were open to robo-advice.
Yet most did not want machines to replace human interaction altogether. For complex transactions and complaint-handling, two-thirds of respondents said they would expect human interaction.
Some insurance firms are already experimenting with using robo-advice. Come back next week for a detailed look at some powerful examples.
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