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Intuit’s Radhika Kannan on how the company is leveraging AI to enhance customer experience

As a global technology platform company, Intuit helps customers and communities overcome their most important financial challenges.

As per Market Data Forecast, the global fintech market will touch $324 billion by 2026. The growth of the segment is expected to be fueled by rapid digitisation. As of November 2021, there were about 10,775 fintech companies in the US. In India, there are about 1,860 startups, and as of December 2021, the country had over 17 fintech unicorns with a valuation of over $1 billion.

In recent times, technology has paved the way for disruption and transformation in the financial services industry in India. Advancements within the fintech space have fostered innovation and powered fintech companies like Intuit to deliver best-in-class customer solutions.

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As a global technology platform company, Intuit helps customers and communities overcome their most important financial challenges. The company serves millions of customers worldwide with cutting-edge technology products like TurboTax, QuickBooks, Credit Karma, Mailchimp, and Mint. “We believe that everyone needs to have the opportunity to thrive and we never stop working to find innovative ways to make that possible,” said Radhika Kannan, Staff Technical Program Manager for AI at Intuit.

However, Intuit isn’t alone in this space. It competes with a gamut of players, such as Xero, Sage, Square, H&R Block, Blucora, Liberty Tax, Experian, and Equifax, who are as vibrant and dynamic but mostly focus on gaining value from AI implementations. Kannan adds that Intuit’s biggest USP is its strategy of being an AI-driven expert platform, solving problems with a customer and platform-focused mindset. 

“AI helps our customers work better and smarter because we can predict, automate and personalise their experience. Powered by data, this integrated products and services platform is accelerating our speed of innovation,” said Kannan. She said that using AI technologies, some of the applications they are working on include – 

  • Leveraging ML to build decision engines and algorithms that learn from rich datasets to transform user experiences (UX) 
  • Applying knowledge engineering to turn compliance rules into code
  • Using natural language processing to revolutionise how customers interact with products and services 

“We believe our AI-driven expert platform will revolutionise experiences for customers and help people make the right financial decisions for themselves, their business, as well as their families. People across the world will be able to instantly access the skills, insights and expert advice they need, while at the same time experts will gain access to new clients they wouldn’t reach otherwise,” said Kannan. 

Overcoming challenges in AI

“One of the biggest challenges currently prevailing in the industry is properly structuring and architecting data so that AI can be applied and implemented easily,” said Kannan. She said that includes making sure that there is a clean pipeline of data processing and accessibility of data in real-time so that you can provide actionable insights to users.

Additionally, Kannan said that in an ever-changing privacy regulation landscape, companies would need to make it easy for end customers to understand how their data could be used, alongside giving them the freedom to select who they trust with that data.

Like many big data players, Intuit stores copies of unstructured and structured data in a large enterprise data lake. Kannan said that the data lake is important to Intuit’s AI-centric strategy, as data analysts and data scientists tap into this rich data set to build machine learning models and gain insights to deliver personalised customer experiences with their products and services.

She said that this data is managed according to a strict set of ‘Data Stewardship Principles’ that govern the complete lifecycle for data. “These Data Stewardship Principles are working on changing the data culture at Intuit, enabling us to have well-designed, domain-driven data to start building AI,” added Kannan.

Furthermore, she said that setting up the initial strategy and investment into AI as a strategic priority can be a barrier for some businesses. “Often, a compelling business case needs to be developed. In some situations, that business case may need to be based on data that is not available yet because the new product is not yet in production,” said Kannan, saying that it becomes the classic ‘chicken-and-egg problem.’ 

She adds that this is the reason it’s important to document the assumptions in a business case and the assumptions about AI. To solve this hassle, the team at Intuit has created a core set of innovation and design thinking methodologies, known as ‘customer-driven innovation’ and ‘design for delight’ that encompasses these and related issues. “The key in both of these approaches is making sure we obsess about falling in love with the customer problems and not our solutions. By keeping this focus, we continue to remain nimble and flexible in seeking new, innovative solutions to evolving customer problems,” said Kannan.

Carving a niche

Kannan said that at Intuit, they’re focused on powering prosperity for their 100 million customers through AI. This includes

Financial insights, benchmarks, cash flow forecasts and advice – actionable insights for QuickBooks Advanced (QBO-Adv) customers and cash flow advice to help businesses understand where they are

Clean, organised data – real-time feedback-driven system for transaction understanding enabling insights in the customers’ first session

AI advisor – advisory experiences in Mint (personal finance product) moving from a look back to planning ahead 

Connect with an expert – context-aware digital experts in QuickBooks and TurboTax to help customers proactively, matchmaking for live offerings

Expert augmentation – bringing ML intelligence and recommendations to experts

Intuit AI and analytics team members regularly participate in premier international forums like KDD (Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining) to share their ideas, research results and experiences via presentations, workshops and demonstrations.

Intuit’s product portfolio

Kannan said that across their platform, they had put the power of technology and data on the side of their customers. “Our product delivers simple, delightful solutions across the full range of our customers’ financial lives – and we are proud that millions of people worldwide turn to Intuit to make the most of their money,” she added.

Here’s the list of products developed by Intuit

● TurboTax takes the complexity out of the tax code, helping users get the maximum refund they deserve.

● QuickBooks helps small businesses manage their books, get paid fast, manage capital, and pay employees with confidence.

● Mint helps users get a comprehensive view of their financial picture and make smart money decisions.

● Credit Karma helps people find the right financial products, putting more money in their pockets and providing financial expertise and insights.

● Finally, Mailchimp provides an all-in-one marketing platform that empowers customers to start and grow their businesses by helping customers get their business online, market their business, and manage customer relationships.

Tech stack

Kannan said at Intuit, analysts glean insights from customer data available across the ecosystem, and AI teams focus on building customer experiences driven by machine learning, knowledge engineering, and natural language processing, delivering personalised, automated and insightful products.

Further, she said that the team combines AI with human expertise to innovate and deliver unimaginable benefits for our customers along with areas such as –

● Protecting customers from financial loss

● Building personalised smart products with AI-based predictions, recommendations, insights, and workflow automation that are ethical, explainable, engaging, and fair

● Inspiring trust in human expertise and AI-driven insights

The team also focuses on creating reusable self-service AI capabilities to help scale quickly across the company. 

Kannan said that they currently have AWS infrastructure support, including EMR notebooks that can run distributed workloads for large datasets with sizes of the order of TBs, Sagemaker notebooks having CPU and GPU capabilities that can scale according to needs, Databricks, etc. Besides this experimentation infrastructure, Intuit also has their own internally developed frameworks to help abstract the infrastructure details from data scientists. 

Future roadmap

“As we build our AI-driven expert platform, we prioritise our resources on five top priorities, or Big Bets, across the company,” informed Kannan.

She said these five key priority areas go after the biggest customer problems and are the largest growth opportunities for the company. These include revolutionising speed to benefit, connecting people to experts, unlocking smart money decisions, being the centre of small business (SMB) growth, and disrupting the small business mid-market.

In addition to this, Intuit has also charted out some Bold Goals for 2025, including doubling household savings rate and improving SMB success rate greater than 10 points versus the industry and increasing their customers to 200 million, alongside accelerating their revenue growth.

Intuit is hiring! To know more about Intuit or explore careers at Intuit visit https://www.intuit.com/careers/oa/technology/ 

More Great AIM Stories

Amit Raja Naik
Amit Raja Naik is a seasoned technology journalist who covers everything from data science to machine learning and artificial intelligence for Analytics India Magazine, where he examines the trends, challenges, ideas, and transformations across the industry.

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