CBA’s $132 million play with California artificial intelligence leader H20 to make the bank ‘an AI superpower’

- November 8, 2021 2 MIN READ
Sri Ambati
H2O.ai founder and CEO Sri Ambati
Australia’s biggest bank, the Commonwealth (CBA) has made a major play in artificial intelligence, investing $134 million (US$100m) in California AI market leader H2O.ai, for a minority stake.

The bank is hoping the exclusive partnership with the Silicon Valley machine learning platform will help make Australia a leading force in AI. H2O is CBA’s exclusive financial services partner in Australia and New Zealand.

H2O.ai has now raised more than US$250 million and is valued at US$1.7 billion.

The two companies have been collaborating for three years, with CBA CEO Matt Comyn saying the partnership will help the bank extend AI capability to better anticipate customer needs.

“This partnership will accelerate our ability to deliver a broader customer proposition through more personalised experiences, which delivers greater value for our customers,” he said.

“Deepening our existing relationship with H2O.ai enables us to work more closely with some of the world’s best data scientists and will help to attract top talent wanting to work with the best tools on the biggest data sets on the most interesting problems. We see broad application for AI and machine learning technology right across our business – in operational processes, protecting customers from fraud, lending decisions, and risk management.”

The deal will see CBA provide H2O.ai’s AI Cloud to its entire organisation, including data scientists, data engineers and business users.

A dedicated H2O.ai team, including ‘Kaggle Grandmasters’ – the peak expertise in machine learning – will be embedded in the bank to develop new AI solutions.

Dr Andrew McMullan, CBA’s Chief Data & Analytics Officer said the partnership will also help other platforms the bank has invested in, such as Little Birdie, Karta, CommBank Rewards, and Klarna, and drive sales for merchants.

“We intend to be one of the highest quality, lowest cost sources of leads to our business customers,” he said.

“H2O.ai will also help us to better predict bills and forecast cash flows for both retail and business customers so they can plan ahead. Customers want to be in control, and through the combination of our award winning app, powered by artificial intelligence, we can deliver products and services in the moment to manage unexpected expenses or irregular incomes.

Dr McMullan said the move also tackle broader issues such as energy usage and carbon emissions.

“We will be using our AI models to orchestrate a range of services available across the CBA ecosystem for customers, including through our own products like the Green Loan to help homeowners finance solar or a battery, or through recently announced partnerships such as Amber Energy and CoGo,” he said.

H2O.ai founder and CEO Sri Ambati said “Our vision is not only to make CBA an AI superpower but make Australia an AI nation as we move to life after Covid. This will be fun.”