U of T Scarborough students join forces with IBM Watson to create the first globally collaborative financial technology (FinTech) chatbot

Published on Department of Management News, University of Toronto Scarborough

In a landmark partnership between the University of Toronto (U of T), the Digital Finance Institute (DFI), and the IBM Centre for Advanced Studies, student teams at U of T Scarborough (UTSC) are designing a one-stop information gateway to boost innovation and investment in Canadian financial services.

“In recent years, financial technology, including AI in financial services, has been one of the main synergies driving innovation in Canada and foreign investment into Canada,” said Ellis Odynn, Executive Director at DFI, a Toronto think tank supporting financial technology, responsible innovation, and financial inclusion.

“Despite the popularity of FinTech and AI in financial services, there is no single go-to tech source for fast, accurate information about funding and scaling in the technology sector in Canada—and for foreign audiences, about investing in Canada. That’s all about to change.”

Leveraging IBM Watson Assistant—IBM’s artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology—75 UTSC students studying Computer Science and Management under the direction of Assistant Professor Abbas Attarwala will collaborate with faculty across two campus-linked accelerators, The BRIDGE (housed within the UTSC Department of Management and UTSC Library) and the Department of Computer Science Innovation Lab (DCSIL), to build Canada’s first chatbot equipped with an encyclopedic knowledge of financial technology (FinTech), AI, and the systems that support investment in Canadian industry.

“What is Canada’s leading city for AI? Who are the top women in FinTech in Canada? How does Ontario help start-ups export to new markets? Robust answers to these questions and more will be accessible 24/7 to anyone using our chatbot website or app anywhere in the world,” said Mario Grech, director and co-founder of DCSIL.

“When it comes to scaling a start-up and obtaining investment information, chatbot innovation is a game changer.”

The project is also the first globally collaborative chatbot, with content contributions from around the world including from the United Nations.

“We’re not aware of any chatbot project that is international in terms of the content, and it goes to show the technology leadership of Canada and our partners at U of T,” said Odynn.

Currently, project stakeholders are seeking advisory support from financial institutions, tech companies, and thought leaders across disciplines to test the functional and operational capabilities of the chatbot, with the goal of deploying the finished product in November 2019.

The initial dataset is scheduled to be unveiled at the FinTech Canada Conference, hosted by DFI at MaRS Discovery District on August 14, 2019.