This was the message resoundingly emphasised to your author earlier this week. He was not standing on a construction site. Rather, he was one of around 10,000 people to attend Amazon’s annual AWS Summit in London. With a vibe more like a musical festival (think pulsing music and strobe lights) than a tech conference, it was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about how AI is being practically deployed.

Like asking butchers whether they endorse meat, everyone with whom we spoke at the Summit unsurprisingly evangelised about the potential of AI (and the cloud). We were told that accelerating AI usage could unlock over £500bn of economic value in the UK by 2030. We were not informed how this figure was calculated. AWS’s Managing Director for the region went on to add that AI adoption by businesses in the UK had grown over 30% year-on-year with 9-out-of-10 businesses reporting efficiency gains from having deployed the technology.

During the keynote presentation we heard from two businesses how they were benefiting from AI. TUI, the world’s largest tour operator, highlighted how the technology had helped to reduce handling time in its call centres by more than 20%. Further implementation was allowing TUI to “redefine personalised travel experiences” through customised content. Meanwhile Zilch, a fintech start-up, described how AI was benefiting its business in terms of enhancing fraud protection, credit underwriting, customer servicing and buyer-intent prediction. Some of its predictability metrics had improved by more than twofold post the use of AI tools.

Case studies such as these demonstrate why there has never been a better time to be a builder (of new software solutions, obviously), in the words of AWS’s VP of Professional Services and Gen AI Innovation. She also asserted that AI would serve to “remove barriers to innovation” for all businesses. From our perspective, the intent is laudable, and it is encouraging to see that Amazon has already moved beyond offering its AWS customers just an infrastructure layer. It now also provides tools (or middleware) and applications. If we are, as AWS believes, “on the precipice of a tectonic change” then expect the plates only to move slowly.  We do not expect the broad adoption of AI to be linear. Even if the impact of most technologies ends up being under-estimated in the long-term, this does not exclude over-estimating their potential in the near-term.

25 April 2024

The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.

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Alex Gunz, Fund Manager

Photos by the author

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