Introducing The Innovators 2024

Banks heed AI’s futuristic promise, our top innovators offer more immediately practical solutions.

With its siren song of improved productivity, enhanced customer experience, transformed operations and bold new business models, artificial intelligence (AI) is the tune every bank is humming. Despite the megabucks being shelled out on AI, however, most banks are keeping their AI research and development efforts under wraps as they learn to balance innovation against regulatory challenges while addressing the attendant data security and data quality issues. And they are just seeing glimpses of what generative AI—which can generate its own text, images and other content—can bring to the industry.

The buzz around AI, meanwhile, is reminding some longtime observers of the vast expectations advanced for blockchain not so long ago. Once touted as a panacea for everything banking related, blockchain is only now switching from hype to reality as specific use cases are rolled out. The question, then, is whether that experience has taught banks to be more reserved and strategic in their approach to innovation.

Tech consultant Juniper Research predicts that banks’ spending on genAI will rocket to $85 billion in 2030, up from $6 billion this year, as the firms push to offer a more personalized user experience. But a key lesson of the blockchain bandwagon is that innovation for the sake of it is unlikely to succeed, whereas innovation that solves problems or provides a better user experience has value.

Among the past year’s innovations that appear to be yielding the best results are systems that solve cash-flow and liquidity-management problems, improve supply chain efficiency, and furnish a more seamless way for treasurers to carry out their daily operations. All of these deliver real value to their banking partners.

Similarly, our respondents singled out innovations that offer greater protection against fraud, increase stability and performance, and improve support for small and midsize enterprises (SMEs), citing the additional value they provide.

Some hyperpersonalized app enhancements underscore how far banks have come in tailoring their services to match customer journeys, many of them leveraging AI and machine learning to provide personalized recommendations in real time. From apps tailored to different age ranges to wealth management and financial advisory tools providing customized advice and investment guides, all promise to help banks strengthen their client relationships    —Gilly Wright

Our initial call attracted entries from innovators touting their achievements at the global, regional and local levels. Global Finance also received nominations for the top innovations of the year from correspondents and external sources. To accommodate invention, we do not set categories but insist that nominations be a “first” in some way. The editorial board evaluated entries, and nominations were vetted with independent research. Winners were selected following rigorous debate.