Transforming the future of banking

6 December 2018
The impact of artificial intelligence on banking
Final year arts/law student Isabella Ledden speaks on teaching Westpac about artificial intelligence and the value of seeking out interdisciplinary perspectives.
Students working in group in front of computer


When the time came to choose my final law electives, I wanted to take a subject which went beyond a theoretical understanding of a particular practice area. I knew I needed to be challenged to think differently. It was also important for me to build upon the skills I gained working as a paralegal, most notably project management, working collaboratively and utilising available technology to work more efficiently.

A project unit called The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Banking, hosted by the University of Sydney Business School with partner Westpac, turned out to provide the very experiences and opportunities I was seeking.

The project brought together students from a variety of disciplines to work as a group to develop solutions to genuine problems set by a number of partner organisations.

At Westpac, our group of commerce, pharmacology, information technology, law and arts students introduced ‘SEAM’, a human resources tool incorporating existing and developing Office 365 features powered by artificial intelligence.

SEAM is a human resources tool for profiling employee strengths and providing insights to assist Westpac to upskill current employees and recruit future talent. 

Taking this unit meant I worked as part of a truly multidisciplinary team to deliver a final boardroom pitch and accompanying report to a panel consisting of Westpac’s Senior Head of Strategy for Group Business Units, and Head of Innovation and Group Methodology as well as other HR strategy and services representatives.

It was a unique opportunity to exchange ideas with Westpac staff and I especially enjoyed discussing the ethical and legal implications of gathering emotional data from employees against the backdrop of the establishment of the Notifiable Data Breaches scheme by way of the Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Act 2017.

Being able to discuss these issues with key figures in banking who grapple with such considerations on a daily basis was an incredibly valuable and rewarding experience.
Isabella Ledden

Contrary to what most law lecturers will insist on when marking an essay or problem question, this unit taught me that some ideas are purely your own. Some ideas do not necessarily need to be referred back to or substantiated by a long line of authority.

Being required to respond to Westpac’s brief of identifying an appropriate operations area in which to implement artificial intelligence, it became apparent to me that to oversubscribe to the doctrine of precedent and solely apply a legal perspective may ensure ‘consistent’ and arguably ‘just’ outcomes, but can hinder innovative thinking.

Ultimately, the unit confirmed my understanding that for today’s graduating law students, particularly those pursuing a career in commercial law, it is vital to be open to engaging with unfamiliar technology, to persevere with platforms that transform how traditional legal procedures like discovery are undertaken, and seek out interdisciplinary perspectives whenever possible.

Working now in restructuring and corporate insolvency law, which involves regular interaction with accounting, forensic and advisory professionals, I am definitely grateful to have had such an experience.

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