Innovators of Barclays: Ana Perales
Ana Perales, Head of Customer Segments and Strategy at Barclays Business Banking, tells us why innovation isn’t just about technology – and how wifi can change your life.
How do you define innovation?
That’s an easy question. I think innovation is really about doing things differently, whether you're thinking about using technology to solve a problem, or looking at something you do every day and wondering whether you could do it differently.
For example, I sometimes try and brush my teeth with a different hand. I'm more likely to brush them with my right hand so I use my left hand, and it helps me understand whether there are bits of the mouth that I can access better or not. That’s a silly example – but I think it brings to life the fact that innovation isn't about technology, it's also about changing the way we do things.
Where does innovation appear in your home and how has it changed your life?
I try to keep my house pretty low-tech – I don’t even use Amazon’s Alexa. One of the things I’ve always liked is music but I’m not really that good at choosing what music to listen to, so I use AI to create a whole playlist based on a song I’ve selected. Bang & Olufsen, many years ago, introduced a ‘more of the same’ functionality to its music systems, which looked at patterns in the way the music sounded, tones, notes keys to generate a whole list of music after just one song. Now Spotify does that really well, so you could spend a whole day listening to music after choosing just one track.
With innovation, it doesn't matter how clever we are with technology, if as humans we behave in the same way all the time.
Head of Customer Segments and Strategy at Barclays Business Banking
You spent the last two-and-a-half years at Barclays focusing on AI and deep tech. How can Barclays continue to innovate with AI, particularly in this current climate?
Our focus at Barclays has to be on our customers and on helping our customers. So, from an AI perspective there is a lot you can do. AI can help you automate, become more efficient, do things differently, faster, cheaper, but also in a more personalised way – and I think that's really where the opportunity comes along. If we are able to use AI to understand our customers better, to identify their needs faster, then there might be an opportunity for us to become much more relevant to our customers.
What is your favourite innovation?
That’s interesting timing actually because we've kind of assumed that wifi is normal in our lives, but I'm going to say that it’s my favourite innovation. I recently spent time in Spain at a house we've been visiting for more than 20 years, and until a couple of days ago, it didn't have wifi. Suddenly we've got cable TV, we can use FaceTime, we can WhatsApp, and we can actually turn our heating system on when we're not there. So I've realised that wifi does change your life.
Thinking about AI again, what do you think has been the most significant innovation in the field?
The great thing about this question is that my answer will be out of date as soon as I say it because AI just continues to develop at warp speed. But I think the development that we've got in computer vision, where you can combine it with neural networks to get computers to understand images, is ground-breaking.
You’ve got examples like a farmer in Japan using open-source computer vision technology to help his mum sort cucumbers. Then, in healthcare, you've got computer vision really being trained and developed to be able to identify tumours, and help doctors and specialists triage better.
If you could change one thing in the world through innovation, what would that be?
I think we need to do as much as possible to use innovation, technology and AI to help with the challenges around climate change and sustainability. There is so much we can do in terms of using resources more efficiently, thinking about different sources of energy, and doing much more with less. With innovation, it doesn't matter how clever we are with technology, if as humans we behave in the same way all the time. So I think if we could innovate to learn differently, to be faster at knowing how to do good, then that would help us change the world for the better.