By Jemima Kelly
LONDON (Reuters) - Artificial intelligence (AI) will become the primary way banks interact with their customers within the next three years, according to three quarters of bankers surveyed by consultancy Accenture in a new report.
Four in five bankers believe AI will "revolutionise" the way in which banks gather information as well as how they interact with their clients, said the Accenture Banking Technology Vision 2017 report, which surveyed more than 600 top bankers and also consulted tech industry experts and academics.
Artificial intelligence -- the technology behind driverless cars, drones and voice-recognition software -- is seen by the financial world as a key technology which, along with other "fintech" innovations such as blockchain, will change the face of banking in the coming years.
More than three quarters of respondents to the survey believed that AI would enable more simple user interfaces, which would help banks create a more human-like customer experience.
"The big paradox here is that people think technology will lead to banking becoming more and more automated and less and less personalized, but what we've seen coming through here is the view that technology will actually help banking become a lot more personalized," said Alan McIntyre, head of the Accenture's banking practice and co-author of the report.
"(It) will give people the impression that the bank knows them a lot better, and in many ways it will take banking back to the feeling that people had when there were more human interactions."
The top reason for using AI for user interfaces, cited by 60 percent of the bankers surveyed, was "to gain data analysis and insights".
But worries over the privacy of data were cited as the top challenge, with one in three also saying that the fact users often prefer human interactions could also be a problem.
The report also found that, while the number of human interactions in bank branches or over the phone was falling and would continue to do so, the quality and importance of human contact would increase.
"What you're going to get on the bankers' side is access to far better information, and that's going to allow them to understand what your needs are and what the advice is that they need to give you," said McIntyre.
Banks' advisory arms are an area considered one of the ripest for technological innovation.
"The advisory business of banking is a very costly model, and artificial intelligence can help to manage the data and to scale the advisory model in a way that was unforeseeable before," said Roberto Mancone, Deutsche Bank's global head of disruptive technologies and solutions.
(Reporting by Jemima Kelly; Additional reporting by Axel Threlfall; Editing by Gareth Jones)