Innovation and financial services: 2023, a year of great promise


As we turn the page from 2023 to 2024, it’s worth pausing to take stock of a year that has seen decisive innovation in the financial services sector. However, there have as yet been very few real-world developments, and we look forward to seeing these become a reality in 2024.

Let’s take a look at some of the highlights of 2023:

  1. The widespread use of Artificial Intelligence, based on the ChatGPT paradigm,

  2. A new wave of large-scale data exploitation, with new uses relating to ESG1,

  3. The development of new mobile apps or applications offering users a new-generation digital experience,

  4. Blockchain’s struggle to gain a foothold in the financial sector, even though new regulations and some exciting innovations mark a fundamental trend.

Is the ChatGPT tidal wave a gateway to a world of great promise… or of disillusionment?

Rarely has the financial industry seen such a deluge of articles, conferences and announcements on a single topic. This was the case some twenty years ago with the internet, then – to a lesser extent – with mobile applications, and then social networks. But 2023 will forever be remembered as a major turning point for Artificial Intelligence. However, this field of innovation has been something of a sleeping giant since its beginnings in the 1950s, having always had great difficulty in making its way out of university laboratories and into our everyday lives. The successive waves have focused on task automation (third-generation RPA2); understanding and managing language (with automatic translators, for example, followed by voice-to-text conversion and vice versa); and more recently, the development of algorithm-driven financial models and large-scale data warehouses. Early virtual advisers (in the form of robo-advisors) struggled to demonstrate their effectiveness, however, and often remained limited to restricted areas of assets and concrete solutions. Most significantly, predictive models have often come up against markets that are not exact copies of past cycles. Lastly, language processing tools (chatbots or virtual agents) have always struggled to deliver a sufficient return on investment for those who have tried them.

Today's technologies are based on generative AI, a new family of applications capable of automatically creating content (text, images, computer code) from virtually unlimited data pools. Generative AI offers enhanced NLG (Natural Language Generation) capabilities for understanding and interpreting the simplest or most advanced requests (known as “prompting”). Last but not least, generative AI is capable of working with learning algorithms and complex models, derived from the use of neural networks (“Deep Learning”). There are indeed many applications, but it’s important to distinguish between the dream and the reality:

  • The dream is the ability of generative AI to answer simple questions, with intelligible answers, based on extensive databases. Such systems are far more powerful than the links provided by search engines, which will soon be largely outdated;

  • The dream is also to provide the average person with traditional office tools (such as Microsoft's Office suite) that feature “co-pilots” capable of creating the most beautiful presentations or the clearest summaries of disparate data in record time, thus helping managers to gain insights into their business or reconcile scattered data from disparate spheres.

  • The reality is that this is always based on initial data, which must be of high quality – in terms of both consistency and update frequency – in order to avoid cognitive bias. However, data quality has quickly emerged as the major obstacle faced by these new tools. In a recent study by Salesforce3, only a third of companies reported that they had full confidence in the reliability of their data, underlining the persistent challenges they face in realising its full potential. 69% of decision-makers in France are worried about not being able to take advantage of the benefits of generative AI.

  • The reality is also the time needed to validate the models, which will continue to require a human presence in their development for a long time to come, in order to push back the limits of the total replacement of man by machine.

  • The reality, furthermore, is that these technologies need to master how to explain their reasoning (the system must be able to describe how it has arrived at a given conclusion), and even to incorporate ethical rules into the use and design of generative AI. In this respect, the European Parliament deserves credit for quickly reaching a consensus on the AI Act – which will, however, have to prove it can be applied, just as the GDPR has done for the protection of personal data.

So what will we learn from this? The time saved through the use of generative AI, the emergence of “augmented” professions capable of processing increasingly complex information more quickly (lawyers, auditors, financial analysts and managers), and the simplification of tasks such as IT development and image creation – all of which are now enabling some companies to announce new revenues from the use of AI. But this must also be accompanied by an increase in the skills of the teams, which will require some effort on the part of the smallest organisations.

A new wave of large-scale data processing to promote the advent of ESG

In addition to generative AI, our industry is also being impacted by the world of data. This phenomenon is neither new nor surprising, but what is changing is the need for new data, as demonstrated by the production of new ESG reports (Article 8 within the meaning of the SFDR4 regulation) requiring the collection of extra-financial data5.

Our industry therefore needs to walk a tightrope between an increased need for data – enabling new players6 to emerge in the financial landscape to provide it – and a need for efficiency to provide the right data at the right time, in order to maintain a delicate financial balance.

In addition, 2023 confirmed the risks that continue to apply to such data:

57% of data and analysis managers have complete confidence in their data. Operational departments, such as marketing, sales and services, are even more sceptical, with an average of 43% having full confidence in their data7.

According to the survey, 65% of IT managers suffered a data security breach in the period 2021-2022, and 35% admitted to not being able to recover the affected data.

As a result, at a time when the volume of data is constantly increasing, we need to strengthen security measures in a technical environment that is becoming increasingly open, in order to facilitate exchanges with clients or suppliers, while developing teleworking and mobility among our employees.

In giving the 2023 edition of the AM Tech Daythe title “Take back control of your data”, AGEFI hit the nail on the head, enabling players such as AMUNDI Technology to demonstrate the giant strides our industry has made in the area of personalised client allocations for wealth managers.

From the data analysis viewpoint, we can see that 2023 was also a good year for the emergence of new computational tools (carbon consumption) enabling the production of EET9 reports, using a newly consistent Europe-wide taxonomy with the SFDR regulation.

The development of new mobile apps or applications offering users a new-generation digital experience

Another area of innovation in 2023 was the development of ever more appealing and intuitive user interfaces with new, richer functions. At the AM Tech Day, Stéphanie GAUDOUX10 and the participants in the panel discussion she moderated reminded us of the efforts needed to better manage client requests and thus improve their satisfaction with the management of their data, and also to strike the right balance between user autonomy (self-care) and personalised client relationship management, with the support of Securities Services providers.

This year, we note that the trend towards multi-channel relationship models has taken hold in the B2B sector following the COVID pandemic. This involves the digitisation of contracts and documents, tools for automating and monitoring processes and files (KYC, on-boarding of funds) and the widespread use of videoconferencing, both internally and with external partners, particularly internationally, reducing the need for costly and time-consuming physical meetings and business trips. But this trend is not reflected in the blanket use of digital technology. Indeed, the presence of an expert or advisor at the client’s side, and the ability to meet at key moments in the client relationship, remain strong hallmarks of our industry.

In addition to the necessary use of automation for repetitive tasks, the watchwords throughout the year will continue to be: optimising the client journey, personalising the relationship, measuring satisfaction and improving the client experience. Digital transformation in our businesses is – and remains – a constant, requiring a more selective approach to recruiting and managing our employees and involving new technical and behavioural training.

Blockchain is struggling to gain a foothold in the financial sector, even though new regulations and some exciting innovations mark a fundamental trend.

When we think back to our student days, the question of “dilemma” products regularly comes to mind. If we could select just one image for the blockchain in 2023, this would certainly be the word that comes to mind. Is this the result of too rapid a promotion of a technology that is proving complex to master? Is it the effects of the “crypto-winter” that followed scandals such as FTX in the United States? Or is it the difficulty of getting all sectors of our industry on board?

Simply put, despite (a) the strong performance of crypto-currencies, (b) a regulatory framework that is being harmonised in Europe with the adoption of the MICA11 regulation in April 2023, (c) the launch of a stablecoin backed by the euro by SG Forge (the first institution to be PSAN12-accredited in France for digital assets13), and (d) growing volumes of fund share trading and record-keeping on IZNES14, 2023 will not be remembered as the year in which Decentralised Finance (DeFi) overtook Traditional Finance (TradFi).

It has to be said that launching a so-called “crypto” fund remains a lengthy process, requiring a system that involves multiple players and validation by a regulator that needs to understand how it works in order to protect investors. In addition, there will need to be a clear division of roles between the exchange platforms, the technical service providers – who will be responsible for holding the digital keys (and therefore the assets) – and the banking players, who will be responsible for record-keeping, acting as depository and even assuming the role of transfer agent to ensure secure financial exchanges between the real world and digital assets.

And players such as BINANCE have had heavy sanctions imposed on them in the US for having overlooked a few operating rules15.

It is now certain that the market for blockchain and digital assets will be able to grow only if it is based on clear and transparent mechanisms, with players who are above reproach and vigilant about protecting the assets of issuers and investors. From a regulatory viewpoint, MICA will facilitate the passporting of PSANs in Europe, and it can be anticipated that SEC approvals for Blackrock's Bitcoin ETF16 cash funds should come in January 2024 and pave the way for other ETFs based on the Ethereum public blockchain, such as Invesco, Bitwise and Valkyrie. Although Bitcoin Futures ETFs have already been accepted in the past, this new step may be the signal that American investors are waiting for to breathe life into a market that remained inactive across the Atlantic in 2023. This is the view shared by Fidelity & VanEck17, who intend to seize this opportunity by offering Bitcoin Spot ETFs in 2024 (applications filed with the SEC18 in November 2023).

In Europe in 2024, we should see the first exceptions under the Pilot Regime19, which will pave the way for the switching of payments between accounts opened at central banks and settlements made in money issued directly on the blockchain. Under certain circumstances, this scheme gives access to tokenised financial products (shares, bonds and fund units). This regime will also introduce new roles for market infrastructures, requiring specific approvals before becoming trading platforms or players in the settlement and delivery of digital securities (against FIAT currency).

In 2023, to support these changes and encourage the opening up of financial client data, the AMF worked on a European framework for Open Finance20, following a similar initiative a few years ago in the sphere of Payments. This will undoubtedly be an area worth watching in 2024, as it represents a possible legislative basis for the development of digital finance in Europe.

It looks like we have another eventful year ahead!

Yvan Mirochnikoff,
Head of Digital Solutions, Societe Generale Securities Services.

1 ESG: Environment, Social and Governance criteria.
RPA : Robotic Process Automation

Extract of the report: “State of Data & Analytics”, Salesforce, 2023.

4 SFDR: Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (

Read the article Use of new technologies to facilitate data collection, particularly ESG on Private Markets (

In addition to proxy advisors, these players include: Clarity AI ; Greenscope, Sustainalytics, MSCI, Impak, Manaos.

Extract of the report: “State of Data & Analytics”, Salesforce, 2023.


EET: European ESG Template

10 Head of Coverage, Continental Europe, Societe Generale Securities Services

11 Markets in Crypto Assets – see AMF article

12 PSAN: Digital Assets Service Providers

13 See La Tribune article on the SG Forge accreditation

14 IZNES: Pan-European investment platform for UCI units and Blockchain record-keeping compatible with all distribution channels

15 BINANCE agreed to pay a USD 4.3 billion fine to the US authorities in November 2023 and its founder, Changpenp Zhao, was forced to resign after breaching anti-money laundering rules.

16 ETF: Exchange-Traded Fund

17 FBTC | Fidelity and ETF Crypto | investir en actifs numériques | VanEck

18 SEC : Securities Echange Commission

19 Read the Banque de France article on the Pilot Regime

20 See the European Commission's FiDA (Financial Data Access) proposal, published on 28 June 2023.