HSBC opens Toronto data lab, will partner with FinTech, AI startups

HSBC Canada

Last week, HSBC opened a new data lab in Toronto, hoping the new lab will harness AI to develop future products and generate insights that will ultimately improve customer experience.

“AI has enormous potential to improve banking for all of our customers.”
-President, CEO HSBC Bank Canada

The financial services multinational said the Global Data and Innovation Lab hopes to create an AI ecosystem that will use machine learning techniques to analyze up to 10 petabytes (equivalent to 10,000 terabytes) of data from 1.6 million corporate and institutional clients its Global Banking and Markets business.

“We plan to create a new marketplace, where external parties can work alongside our own teams to help solve business problems and drive new client products and services,” said James Bickerton, global head of operational strategy at HSBC Global Banking and Markets. “Centred around co-development, our appetite to share intellectual property and commercial benefits will foster a collaborative, rather than competitive atmosphere across the numerous vendors we are talking to”.

The new data lab will be equipped with a team of 50 engineers, data scientists, analysts, and co-op students. The team running the endeavour plans to partner with a number of startups operating in the FinTech and AI verticals globally, including Canada. HSBC, which now has 1,500 employees in Toronto, cited the city’s “interest, investment, and development of AI” as a key reason for its selection.

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The program will be supported by more than 47,000 data tables gathered from the 67 countries (where HSBC operates), which, the bank said, represents “the largest aggregation of corporate and institutional client data the bank has ever put together.” HSBC expects the analysis of this data to help guide the development of future products and services.

“The opening of this data lab reflects the growth we are experiencing in technology and innovation and the confidence that global brands have in Toronto,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory. “Investments like this are forward-thinking and impactful; the research and work that will come out of this lab will make a difference on a local and global level.”

As Canadian banks are eyeing the country’s FinTech up-and-comers, AI is becoming a valued component of new FinTech adoptions. RBC recently launched NOMI Budgets, an AI-powered solution available through its mobile app, designed to help users manage finances, develop budgets, and stay on track with spending.

In January, TD Bank unveiled Clari, an AI chatbot that can provide customers conversational answers to questions, such as when a customer’s credit card payment is due or expenditure allowances. Senso.ai,, a Toronto-based machine learning and predictive AI company, recently closing a $1.5 million seed round, has seen its own technology used by a number of Canadian financial institutions, including RBC.

“AI has enormous potential to improve banking for all of our customers,” said Sandra Stuart, president and CEO of HSBC Bank Canada. “HSBC’s Global Data [and] Innovation Lab will be an industry leading data lab, where we will be able to harness the power of machine learning and AI towards creating personalized experiences and tailored products for our customers.”

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Writer, globetrotter, drone pilot & David Attenborough enthusiast