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JPMorgan, BofA and the treasure hunt for "shiny objects" in AI

More than most other banks, JPMorgan has been pushing the envelope with its technology spending and hiring. Artificial intelligence has been a focus for JPM (and literally everyone else at this point) but CFO Jeremy Barnum has kept expectations tempered by saying the bank will not be "chasing shiny objects here in AI."

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Speaking on the bank's investor call, Barnum said JPMorgan's focus is on "high-impact use cases" for the technology. The bank will still be "throwing resources" at AI, but only at a "contained, well-chosen list" of products. Barnum says the culture around AI will be "extremely pragmatic and disciplined, and we're holding ourselves accountable for actual results."

It's a sentiment that was echoed last week by Bank of America CEO Bryan Moynihan. Moynihan said there's "vast promise in AI," but also "care that has to be taken on data and usage and models and accountability." BofA is prepared. "The billions we've spent, literally, over the last ten years on data" gives the bank an edge, said Moynihan, but the current plan is to see "how far it can go before you start to run in to difficulties applying it effectively."

When it comes to actual spending on tech, the banks differ. Moynihan said BofA is "basically on the same amount of dollar expenses as 2015, '16," while Barnum noted "higher volume-related technology expense throughout" JPMorgan. Citi, meanwhile, has touted a "$12bn investment in technology" for last year in its own presentation. CFO Mark Mason says "we've seen a shift from consulting expenses to technology and compensation," meaning Citi's (surviving) engineers not only have a bigger budget, they might have better pay.

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AUTHORAlex McMurray Editor

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