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Why SEI launched an internal AI learning group

Oaks-based SEI's Center for AI Excellence invites employees from all departments to learn about the technology and discuss ways it can be implemented at the global company.

Zachary Womack. (Courtesy photo)
Zachary Womack thinks the hype around generative AI is real for good reason: It’s a general-purpose technology that can be applied in a lot of different ways, across many sectors.

Womack, the CTO of global financial services company SEI, has long been familiar with artificial intelligence and machine learning. But in this moment when the technology is changing quickly — see: new legislation, automated hiring processes, ChatGPT’s widespread use — he said the company wants to prepare its more than 4,000 employees for how it will impact their work in the fintech and investment space.

So five months ago, SEI launched an education-focused Center of AI Excellence for the purpose of convening employees to learn about what’s new with the technology and discuss how it can be applied at the Oaks-headquartered company.

At first, the company’s technical leadership limited the group to technologists who were interested in AI and ML. They also invited people from legal, compliance and data security teams, knowing that some of the biggest challenges with artificial intelligence relate to data security and personally identifiable information.

But they soon realized anyone could benefit from conversations about the future of AI and ML.

“Increasingly, we’re bringing more and more and more people into that fold,” he said. “We’ve now started bringing people in from both of our operational teams and our business units. We now have a number of people in from our product teams, on the business unit side, and even some of our sales force is very interested in and engaged in it now, as well.”

“It’s a topic that’s moving really quickly. We really wanted to bring sort of a community get together to really provide education, some level of excitement about it.”Zachary Womack SEI

SEI maintains an internal website dedicated to this learning group where information is published alongside live and recorded sessions — think of it as a self-guided program with course material to learn about AI and ML capability and applicability.

There are also subgroups working on projects related to five use cases of AI, most of which are focused on generative AI. SEI has dedicated staff working on those projects, Womack said, but the broader SEI community of developers, product development teams and the like are invited to participate in those learning activities as well.

“It’s a topic that’s moving really quickly. It’s changing very fast. The vendors and providers in the market are growing and expanding both the number of them there are, but also the offerings that they have,” he said. “We really wanted to bring sort of a community get together to really provide education [and] some level of excitement about it around SEI.”

The company’s core competencies are financial asset management, operations and technology, and Womack believes AI could be transformational in all three of those areas. Artificial intelligence can also simplify people’s workflow so they don’t have to take time to do tedious tasks, but instead focus their energy on tasks where they add value.

“There are aspects of the financial industry that are still not highly digitized yet,” he said; AI could help. The tech “has a really strong capability in being able to bring lots of disparate information together, which is something that the financial industry does all the time, and being able to do that well and efficiently and provide insights, real insights, into that information [would] provide the next step toward a higher level of business intelligence than what we’ve seen before.”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: SEI

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