Meet the virtual assistant catching fire across finance

Meet the virtual assistant catching fire across finance

With every major technology vendor now offering a virtual assistant, one Australian start-up is taking data science to the world

Team Hyper Anna — Sam Zheng; Kent Tian and Natalie Nguyen

Team Hyper Anna — Sam Zheng; Kent Tian and Natalie Nguyen

“When humans ask a question we always have an intention for the question,” she added. “If you have asked me ‘how are my sales doing?’ and I told you that you had sold $100,000 of product, that is actually not very insightful at all.

“Your intention is to know whether your performance last week was really good or was it not good and why.”

A smart solution to an ongoing problem

Despite being only 18 months old, Hyper Anna has already received international recognition, after being acknowledged as a cool vendor by Gartner, across the AI for Banking and Investment Services category.

As outlined in the analyst brief, the business is deemed cool because it allows any person in an organisation to ask complex questions of a company's dataset in plain English and get an insightful response.

“It is a smart machine agent that performs the role of a data scientist,” Gartner analyst Derry Finkeldey observed.

“Hyper Anna is cool because it presents the opportunity to democratise data in every enterprise, with a particular fit in financial services — any role can ask for an analysis and get an answer in seconds.”

In a ringing endorsement of the product, Finkeldey advised the C-suite to consider Hyper Anna as a viable alternative strategy to interpreting company data.

“CIOs and the C-suite leaders they support should consider Hyper Anna,” Finkeldey added. “In particular, CMOs and CCOs [chief customer officers] who are struggling to get timely responses from different business units and want to avoid duplicating analytic initiatives across the enterprise may benefit from this product.”

According to Finkeldey, users with specific and regular requirements for timely reporting, particularly in relation to specific customer initiatives or marketing campaigns, could benefit from the use of Anna.

“The most popular use cases in financial services are to empower sales and marketing employees to design initiatives to drive better results,” Finkeldey added.

Business benefits

Today, virtual assistants learn from interaction, and the way Hyper Anna is introduced to a business is what makes its initial use highly effective.

Prior to being widely deployed across an organisation, small user groups representing different parts of the business are put together.

These teams will use the application for two weeks which will train the AI and make Hyper Anna able to understand 85 per cent of questions asked in the first attempt.

The result is an application which aims to address the top challenge in the industry — the shortage of data scientists within financial institutions.

Furthermore, Hyper Anna delivers a tool that can be accessed by all individuals within an organisation to address a challenge usually left to top management.

“Hyper Anna is taking this a step further by delivering access to all roles inside the organisation,” Finkeldey added. “It removes the silos associated with data scientists in banking and investment services, where middle and lower management employees are removed from daily operations.”

Even though Hyper Anna can work across verticals and industries, the virtual assistant currently focuses on financial services.

“With any AI agent, you really want to focus the training on a particular domain and become the best software solution to solve that particular problem,” Nguyen explained.

While not discounting a move into other verticals within the next 2–3 years, Nguyen acknowledged that being named a cool vendor by Gartner is a “signal that we should be looking into other regions”.

Since inception, the start-up has been building a global strategy, refining and retuning priorities over time.

Currently, Hyper Anna already operates in Hong Kong, with plans to move into other markets such as Singapore, China and even the US.

From a technological standpoint, expansion will come in parallel with broadening Anna’s horizon in terms of languages she currently speaks, alongside a deeper knowledge of the global financial market.

And it appears that the industry is happy to go along for the ride, with the company recently raising $16 million in Series A funding, which will be key to realising international expansion ambitions.

Driven by venture capital firm Sequoia China, the investment round also counted significant investments from Airtree Ventures, Westpac Reinventure and IAG Firemark Ventures, with both Westpac and IAG two of Hyper Anna’s early customers in Australia.

“The fact that some of our investors are also our customers, gives us great confidence in the company, in ourselves, and the product,” Nguyen added.

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