28 November 2016
That includes some of the more fantastic ideas about handing the management of clients' assets entirely to computers - creating "self-driving portfolios" in the way the automotive industry is creating self-driving cars.
To outsiders, it may seem a true clash of cultures: Swiss banking means old-fashioned, personal service - as well as caution, secrecy (and until a global clampdown a decade ago, helping clients evade tax).
One pioneer is Jürgen Schmidhuber, professor of artificial intelligence at the
At a conference for professional investment managers in
Such ideas have been around for decades. While AI in cars grabs more headlines, hedge fund managers have long also profited - and crashed - on its output.
But the argument of scientists like
"Everything that humans can do will be done better by artificial intelligence,"
Yet generally Swiss bankers do not believe their livelihood is in danger. As elsewhere in the world, they are automating processes to cut costs and use "robo advising" for more basic investment services. But computer power is regarded as something to assist - not replace - humans.
Investment managers I spoke to pointed out the many trade-offs they had to judge, including for regulatory and accounting reasons. Already, large portfolios can be managed by a few people - so potential costs savings are modest. Then there were the dangers of computers increasing the risk of "flash crashes" and exposure to hackers.
A more pertinent objection is whether intelligence based on patterns from the past can cope with unprecedented events - the election of
However, he did not impress the audience at last week's Zürich Uhlenbruch professional investment managers' conference. While more than half believed artificial intelligence could support humans in executing trades, just 10 per cent believed it could help with portfolio management.
Even in a tax compliant world, Swiss banking thrives on the perception it offers the individual touch. One senior Swiss private banker I spoke to said he acted as a "shrink" for his clients and would not dream of telling them their money was managed by a computer.
Of course, as
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