NatWest commences tests with quantum computing power

Maria Nikolova

The experiment will see quantum-inspired computing power used to help portfolio managers decide on the right composition for the bank’s high quality liquid assets portfolio.

New technologies are set to help NatWest decide on the right composition for the bank’s high quality liquid assets portfolio. The bank has announced the start of testing with quantum computing power in order to solve complex, challenging, time consuming and expensive problems it faces.

By tapping the capabilities of ‘quantum-inspired’ computing power, the bank’s technology team have completed a highly complex calculation that needs to be undertaken regularly by the bank, at 300 times the speed of a traditional computer, while providing an even higher degree of accuracy.

Quantum-inspired means that quantum algorithms are used to solve a problem, but qubits are not actually used in the process.

The experiment, which after successful testing is now being implemented by the bank, will see quantum-inspired computing power used to help portfolio managers decide on the right composition for the bank’s £120bn high quality liquid assets (HQLAs) portfolio. HQLAs are assets such as cash and bonds that every UK bank must hold as a buffer in case it runs into financial trouble.

Given the early success of testing, it is now thought quantum computing power could markedly change the way many processes are undertaken at NatWest and the bank is now looking at what other portfolios can be calculated using the same technology. For instance, portfolio managers could be able to adjust the allocation of assets following a surprise movement in the market, in a much shorter space of time than normal.

The hardware used in testing has been Fujitsu’s quantum-inspired Digital Annealer, whilst the quantum software is provided by 1QBit – of which NatWest is an investor and board observer. This strategic relationship has provided NatWest with unique insights.

Quantum technology could also be applied to optimise the bank’s other portfolios, and could enhance other areas such as:

  • Anomaly detection;
  • Supercharged AI;
  • Software verification.

NatWest has been seeking to harness the capabilities of novel technologies in its services. In February this year, for instance, bank announced that Cora, an AI powered ‘digital human’, could in future be used as an additional way for customers to get answers to basic banking queries such as “How do I login to online banking?”, “How do I apply for a mortgage?” and “What do I do if I lose my card?”.

The bank, has since the start of 2017, rolled out a text-based chat bot called ‘Cora’ that can answer 200 basic banking queries and now has 100,000 conversations a month with customers of the bank. But the bank has taken another step and, drawing upon advances in neuroscience, psychology, computing power and artificial intelligence, a new Cora prototype has been built to include a highly life-like digital human that customers can have a two-way verbal conversation with on a computer screen, tablet or mobile phone.

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