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ATB invests in Alberta tech talent

Partnership at UAlberta provides real-world learning gives edge to students


Alberta will get a boost in its contribution to the national artificial intelligence (AI) landscape through a four-year partnership between ATB Financial and the University of Alberta. 

A chosen group of students, paired with selected professors and ATB science experts, are now hard at work to push the boundaries of AI and machine learning. This collaboration is thanks to an initial contribution of $940,000 from ATB.

The partnership is unique. The interdisciplinary team—from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields—empowers students and researchers to move beyond classroom theory to create real-world banking solutions and applications…for real Albertans.

Projects and initial research include intuitive business analytics to support entrepreneurial growth, proactive fraud detection and customer service intelligence powered by reinforcement learning, a field of research for which UAlberta is the acknowledged world leader. All of the projects are designed to re-define customer service experiences at ATB.

“Our students are motivated by hands-on learning that will lead to jobs,” said Jonathan Schaeffer, Dean of the University of Alberta Faculty of Science and an expert in artificial intelligence. “This learning lets the next generation of AI leaders apply their STEM skills at UAlberta, building the AI ecosystem to retain and attract talent here in Alberta.”

It’s estimated that by 2030, the economic gains from AI will be $3.7 trillion for North America, with positive impact to labour productivity and consumer experiences across almost every industry and size of business imaginable.

Because AI has such broad-reaching impact, conversations shaping the use of AI for public good have never been more important. ATB is dedicated to ensuring best practices regarding legal, social and ethical implications of AI commercialization prevail. Ethics are based on pillars such as privacy, security, trustworthiness.

“Every business and individual stands to benefit from the application of AI,” said Wellington Holbrook, ATB’s Chief Transformation Officer. “The opportunity to collaborate with UAlberta as a key pillar in ATB’s broader AI strategy is significant. We’re able to reinforce the fabric of Alberta’s tech ecosystem with a focus on developing and benefitting the key resource at the heart of it all: people.”

In addition to research collaboration, ATB has expanded its investment in AI through the establishment of a Research & Affiliate Network, led by professor and artificial intelligence expert Dr. Randy Goebel as well as an AI, People & Advisory Ethics open platform, led by Dr. Geoffrey Rockwell.

It is expected researchers on all three projects will publish their results, meaning additional benefits to others in the financial and tech sectors.