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Enter stage right the personal finance robot

It was bound to happen sooner rather than later.

The component of AI is the Algorithm – which always sounds to me like a jazz drummer – and the algorithm is spreading across our everyday landscape like a swarm. An algorithm is just a set of rules to be followed by a computer in a problem solving operation; the computer tries to work out what you are doing and the best way forward.

Artificial Intelligence is in our homes, our phones, our streets and our daily lives. Whether you and AI are together knowingly – Alexa, Siri, Google – or unknowingly – whenever you board an aircraft, say, it is permeating into our very existence. The so-called Internet of Things, which was merely the dream of a few bearded eggheads a decade ago, is now in its first common iteration.

This means that your fridge might be able to talk to your phone to tell it you have run out of milk, your thermostat tells your boiler to calm down a bit and your electric meter goes round turning off all the lights and appliances which are being energy inefficient. AI loads and unloads ships, flies aircraft, builds houses, and will, sooner than you think, drive your car for you. Fair enough, it is all designed to make our lives a bit easier. But there are two downsides to all this technological wonderment.

Firstly, the fuel for all these gizmos is data, and lots of it. Alexa learns what your tastes are by the commands you give it, as does Siri and Google. All this data goes back to their originators – Amazon, Apple and, er, Google – and they own it. So you could argue that by owning a device which runs off AI, you are putting a digital spy in your own home to suck up all your personal data.

The other downside of all these lovely machines making our lives and decision-making so much easier is that they also have a tendency to make us lazier.So the advent recently of Weflip, a new service from Go Compare, the strapline of which is “Sign up once, save forever”.

Essentially, you tell it how much you pay for energy and it will automatically switch you into a better deal without you having to raise an eyebrow. It could do the same for your insurance, broadband and your mortgage.

There are others new on the market – Multiply, Labrador (for energy) and one made famous on the BBC’s Dragon’s Den called Look After My Bills.

Yet though we routinely trust AI with our very lives, do we really want to trust it with our long-term financial futures?
There’s talk of how this technology could be used when you apply for a mortgage. That’s fine when you have an impeccable credit history, aged under 45 and can tick all the other boxes that make you a ‘vanilla’ applicant. But life being what it is, sometimes people’s stories are a bit different. So wouldn’t you rather speak to a real human being who can use their ears to make a lending decision rather than a computer, no matter how big its brain?

A mortgage is the biggest financial decision any of us makes and to deal with a person, a real-life human being who works in the industry and even has a mortgage themselves,  is mutually beneficial, it’s a relationship.

Call me old fashioned, but I prefer to talk to real people about real life issues. Just like the Family Building Society.

By Steve McDowell

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Family Building Society
Ebbisham House
30 Church Street
Epsom
Surrey KT17 4NL
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