5@7 FinTech panel explains how Montreal became an AI leader

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5@7 FinTech: Artificial Intelligence in Finance, an informative, knowledge-sharing meeting on artificial intelligence (AI) and its uses in finance, took place at DesjardinsLAB earlier this month.

“We want to educate people, interact with the community, and organize more sessions like this,” said Ilias Benjelloun, innovation leader at DesjardinsLAB. “IVADO, Element AI, Microsoft, Google — everyone is investing in Montreal [in AI] and we are very fortunate to have great research done by great minds.”

With guest panelists Alain Tapp, a University of Montreal professor in the department of computer science and operational research; Vijay Sankaranarayanan, director of analytics and information management for Americas at L & T Infotech; and Étienne Plante-Dubé, principal director of modeling and research at Desjardins General Insurance Group (DGAG), the meeting aimed to provide answers to the question of the impact of artificial intelligence on society. It also examined trends in the banking and finance sector and new developments and greater potential for financial institutions.

Tapp started with a twenty-minute summary explaining the path of artificial intelligence to date.

“Most of the time, we say that we are working on machine learning, which is perhaps less sexy, but that is what works for now, and these tools may lead us to smart machines,” he said.

“Today, machine learning and AI are a major part of many major industries. Google has more researchers who publish articles about AI and machine learning than if we combine all Canadian universities. Collaboration between industries and universities is not always easy, but in a sector like that of AI and machine learning, there is a strong interest in collaborating and the reason is that [the industries] have a lot of data, and it’s interesting for us [researchers].”

He gives the example of IVADO, an AI research partnership between the Université de Montréal, Polytechnique Montréal and HEC Montréal which received $213 million, and said it was created to encourage this interaction.

He went on to discuss the specifics of Montreal in relation to this technology. “The revolution of the moment is called deep learning, and it’s why Montreal is so successful. Montreal has been doing this kind of machine learning since the very beginning,” he said.

Next, a conversation took place between the different specialists. Regarding the banking industry, Sankaranarayanan asked: “How can I get relevant information from my own data? This is the main problem that the [banks’] CEOs are trying to address,” he said.

For Plante-Dubé, “The key is to break down the problem of [general] intelligence into small steps and find the next best step for an organization. Trying to achieve general intelligence is a fine theory, but there is still much to be done.”

Sachin Vyas, CEO and founder of AugmentIQ Data Science, a company focused on data technology, consumer application and analysis, ended the evening with a presentation of the MOSAIC platform, which facilitates collection and data analysis using machine learning and deep learning.

Gabrielle Drouin

Gabrielle Drouin

Gabrielle Drouin has completed a master's degree in Literature specializing in Quebec's contemporary dramaturgy at University of Montreal. She also worked as a journalist in Toronto, covering the news of its Franco-Ontarian community, and has been reporting on the Montreal startup tech ecosystem since 2016. She is currently the events coordinator at Notman House and the OSMO Foundation.