Unleashing the Power of Generative AI in Fintech: A Groundbreaking Interview with Sam Edge, Global Head of Fintech for Startups at AWS

  • Sam Edge, Global Head of Fintech for Startups at AWS

  • 31.07.2023 02:56 pm

Sam, please introduce yourself, and tell a bit about your professional background.

I’m the Global Head of Fintech for Startups at Amazon Web Services (AWS), where I lead a team of former founders and investors to support the world’s best and brightest fintech startups and venture capital funds building in the cloud. Prior to joining AWS, I was a founder myself, and have spent the majority of my career in financial services and fintech both as a consultant, and as a mentor to other startup founders through programmes such as Techstars, Plug & Play, and Startupbootcamp.

What are the most exciting topics that you heard at Money 2020 Europe this year?

Generative AI was certainly number one on my list, perhaps unsurprisingly given how much change, innovation, and excitement it has created across every industry this year. It was particularly interesting to hear about how fintechs are thinking through generative AI applications for improving operational efficiency and customer service, as well as increasing personalization, and optimizing back-office functions. At AWS, we see great potential for generative AI to usher in what we are calling the era of "self-driving money", where every consumer with a smartphone can have access to an affordable, trusted financial advisor that will help them manage their expenses, invest their money, and achieve financial health.

How does AWS support fintech startups in terms of infrastructure, scalability, and cost-effectiveness?

We know what companies need to be successful in this segment. Over the past 15 years, we’re proud to have developed the most comprehensive suite of tools and services in this space to help startups build and prove their ideas, and shape the future of the industry. We’re proud to say that no other cloud provider has helped to create as many startup unicorns as we have.

AWS has a global infrastructure spanning  99 availability zones and 31 geographic regions , enabling fintech startups to build and grow reliably and across any market they need to be in. In addition, the AWS tech stack has been designed to meet the most stringent security, compliance, and regulatory demands seen in this space. We have 143 pre-loaded security standards and thousands of global requirements validated by third-parties, to help startups build with confidence, while meeting the strictest regulations.

A big part of how we provide to founders and developers goes beyond just the technical capabilities of the AWS platform, though. We have dedicated support teams consisting of seasoned financial services experts—with expertise in everything from go-to-market to solutions architecture—that really understand what it takes to be successful in a such a heavily regulated industry to guide these startups in their journey.

It’s for these reasons and more that AWS is already trusted by financial institutions of all sizes—from big banks such as Goldman Sachs, HSBC, and Capital One, to newer, nimbler startups, such as Affirm, Plaid, and Stripe. 

What is the purpose of the AWS Global Fintech Accelerator program? What regions are eligible for the program? What benefits do the selected startups receive during the program? Will there be partnership opportunities with investors and advisors?

Today, 91% of financial services institutions are using artificial intelligence (AI) to drive business transformation and change, and 80% of fintechs are leveraging machine learning (ML) in particular—there was never more demand for a program to support startups to build with AI/ML than now. It’s clear we are at the cusp of a technological jump—one that will offer the opportunity for every customer experience and application to be reinvented with AI, especially generative AI. This accelerator's focus is to usher in the next generation of fintech companies at the forefront of this evolution.

We launched the AWS Global Fintech Accelerator, a six-week program to meet the needs of fintech startups in key global markets— specifically North America, EMEA, and Latin America. Following a successful fintech accelerator pilot launched last year in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Accelerator aims to turbocharge growth for fintech startups leveraging AI and machine learning to usher in a new golden age for financial services. The program offers participating startups with business and technical mentorship tailored to fintechs leveraging AI and machine learning to build their solutions.

We will select 150 startups to participate in the program and they will receive up to $25,000 in AWS Activate credits to build their products and services, as well as dedicated business and technical mentors matched based on their specific needs/company stage. The top 15 companies will be invited to present their products and services to a curated list of potential investors and customers on an in-person Demo Day and will receive up to $75,000 in additional AWS credits.

Applications are open until August 14, so if you are building a cool fintech solution leveraging AI/ML, we want to hear from you!

Can you provide an overview of the specific AWS services and solutions tailored for fintech startups and venture capital firms?

From idea to IPO, AWS empowers fintech startups to deliver exceptional customer experiences through the deepest and broadest set of innovation tools, including machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) services. We also provide specialized guidance for fintech startups with our team of financial services experts. A big benefit we have is that the startup journey is part of our DNA—most of us are former founders, VCs, technologists, product leaders, and industry experts ourselves who know what startups need because we’ve been there.

From a solutions standpoint, we also offer a Fintech Blueprint “Quick Start”—a reference architecture for fintech applications built in the cloud that enables companies to get up and running quickly. The architecture has partitioned virtual private clouds (VPCs) that separate fintech production, management, and development processes. Startups can develop or host B2B or B2C fintech products in this environment. In addition, they can use the AWS Service Catalog to install prepackaged financial tools from leading fintech software vendors and open-source tools. They can also launch any applicable AWS Quick Start—such as SWIFT Client Connectivity—from the link provided on its webpage or in its deployment guide.

How does AWS support the development and deployment of AI models through its machine learning services?

AI and ML have been a focus for Amazon for over 20 years—many of the capabilities Amazon customers use on a daily basis are driven by ML, from our recommendations engine, to the paths that optimize robotic picking routes in our fulfillment centers, to Alexa, which is powered by more than 30 different machine learning systems. We also have helped more than 100,000 customers of all sizes and industries innovate using ML and AI.

We’ve invested in all three layers of the ML stack: performant, scalable infrastructure and frameworks for expert ML practitioners; Amazon SageMaker, which is the easiest way for all developers to build, train, and deploy models; and a range of services to help add AI capabilities—like image recognition, forecasting, and intelligent search—to applications with a simple API call. We take the same democratizing approach to generative AI: we work to take these technologies out of the realm of research and experiments and make it available to customers of any size and developers of all skill levels.

With 70+ state-of-the-art services for big data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning fine-tuned over two decades of experience, AWS has the broadest and deepest solution set to help fintechs make better decisions faster and provide outstanding, personalized services to their customers. 

We are betting big in this space because we believe that generative AI is poised to change the game for fintechs—contextualized understanding of consumers' behaviors and risk profiles enables fintechs to personalize products and services to their customers' real needs and better serve them. Here are some example of startups already building with generative AI at AWS: 

  • Cleo: Generative AI is making chatbots like Cleo more sophisticated and easy to use, automating financial analysis and investment recommendations that apply to each customer's individual financial situation, nudging them to better behaviors, and expanding access to services, such wealth management and business bookkeeping.
  • Ramp: Generative AI is helping Ramp provide better insights and easier management for SMB owners on their business expenses and overall financial management, such as offering IT buyers wisdom of software pricing by benchmarking SaaS contract quotes against millions of aggregated purchasing data points, helping review complicated business contracts, and automating expense reports and accounting processes.
  • Klarna: Generative AI is helping Klarna provide more personalized payments and online shopping experiences to its customers, including curating product recommendations based on customers’ preferences and answering a wider variety of customer inquiries. Modern AI application also helps Klarna ease its customer service staffing requirements.

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