It is a classic win-win situation: In the town of Manno, located not far from Lugano in the canton of Ticino, researchers from the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence (IDSIA) and experts from UBS have been working together since the end of 2018. The IDSIA benefits from concrete applications for its research, while the global banking giant aims to use data analysis to optimize its processes and expand its services.
“What will genuinely change our lives in the coming years are machine learning and artificial intelligence,” says Sabine Keller-Busse, UBS Group Chief Operating Officer. “Our UBS center of excellence in Manno and the collaboration with the IDSIA make an outstanding contribution to this focus area.”
30 years of experience with AI
The collaboration was announced at the beginning of 2018 and was already launched by the end of the year, thanks in large part to the location. “The launch at our existing base in Manno was extremely favorable. We found precisely the right experts there for our needs,” says Sabine Magri, UBS GCOO Chief Operating Manager.
In the beginning, the team consisted of 20 experts. By the end of 2019, it will have around 45 people, and in the long term up to 80, making it a large team for such a high degree of specialization, explains Harald Egger, head of Group Corporate Services at UBS and country head of UBS India. “There are only a few experts worldwide with such extensive AI knowledge, and the demand is very high.”
Ticino boasts the best conditions for recruitment and collaboration. Pioneers in this field have been researching these topics at the IDSIA ever since it was established in 1988. And, as early as 1997, it was one of the top ten AI research institutions in the world. Nowadays it is part of the University of Lugano (USI), which launched Switzerland’s first ever Master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence in 2017.
Data security has top priority
The collaboration with the IDSIA will continue for several years and includes applications from a wide range of areas. “It doesn’t matter where in the value chain: data analysis makes it possible to offer better advice or protection to clients,” says Sabine Magri, including accelerating processes, improving individual services or preventing fraud.
Data security also has a high priority internally, which is why they only work on UBS servers, explains Magri. Another advantage of the location in Ticino is that the data doesn’t have to cross any national borders.
Greater Zurich Area benefits
The Greater Zurich Area is becoming more and more important for UBS as a center of fintech innovation, and Manno now stands alongside Zurich, where you can find the heart of UBS’s fintech activities, which includes cooperation with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). “The entire innovative ecosystem around Lugano was an important reason to open our center there,” says Harald Egger. Ultimately, this is one of the elements of UBS’s decentralization strategy – and something that the Greater Zurich Area can benefit from.
By Yvonne von Hunnius