Sberbank continues down the Buck Rogers path as robots help data scientists

Developed by the bank’s SberCloud unit, Machine Learning Space. known also as ML Space, takes advantage of Sberbank’s supercomputer, Christofari, to ensure that resource-intensive models take hours – rather than weeks or months – to train.

Russian financial giant Sberbank continues to go down the Buck Rogers path and in doing so endangering the jobs of many of its employees.

The company has spent the past three years implementing artificial intelligence (AI) solutions which learn specific tasks with the intention of having computer systems assume roles which had until now been filled by skilled human beings.

This week’s rather ironic development in that direction is Sberbank’s roll out of an AI solution which assists with training staff with regard to complex models.

In this particular application, the solution is a cloud platform for AI model training that the Russian bank says will help data scientists push ahead with their experiments.

Developed by the bank’s SberCloud unit, Machine Learning Space. known also as ML Space, takes advantage of Sberbank’s supercomputer, Christofari, to ensure that resource-intensive models take hours – rather than weeks or months – to train.

Christofari, says Sber, is licensed to work with personal data, while ML Space also allows teams of any size to work together, regardless of location.

The bank and some of its partners are already using ML Space but it will be made available to others from December at “one of the lowest” prices in the world.

These initiatives began in 2017 when reports by Russia’s state-run media agency TASS reported that Sberbank was looking to replace 3000 members of its legal team with a robot.

The plans affected the company’s legal department, with the report by TASS citing Sberbank’s Deputy CEO Vadim Kulik. He elaborated that in the final quarter of 2016 the company enrolled a robot lawyer that is capable of writing statements of claim for the bank’s retail clients. As a result, up to 3,000 employees are set to bid goodbye to their jobs.

Mr Kulik explained that the affected employees will be offered retraining to move to other sectors.

In September 2016, Sberbank’s CEO Herman Gref forecast that in five years AI systems will be responsible for 80% of the decisions at the bank. This means that tens of thousands of people are about to lose their jobs, he told Russian media back then.

The Central Bank of Russia is also carefully reviewing the role of robots in the financial services sector. Its stance on exploiting robo-advisers to consult investors is rather positive. One advantage of the robo-advisers that the Russian central bank noted at the time was that they should lower the expenses for consultancy workforce and would, as a result, lower the entrance barrier for new companies. This, in turn, was intended foster competition.


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