Artificial Intelligence and the Machine Learning Revolution in Finance: Cogent Labs and the Google Cloud Platform (GCP)
This case examines the intersection of two firms (Cogent Labs-a machine learning software firm in Tokyo; and Google, the technology infrastructure giant) attempting to exploit the benefits of artificial intelligence and machine learning in the financial services sector. The case protagonist, David Malkin, known as the "AI Architect" at Cogent Labs, must decide how best to position his firm for growth. Malkin knew that artificial intelligence had great potential to revolutionize several aspects of the financial services industry, but he also knew that artificial intelligence's greatest achievements to date were in very narrow functions. Malkin further knew that large, sophisticated financial service clients owned a vast array of proprietary datasets that were impossible to replicate. Meanwhile the major "cloud" providers like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft had large-scale computing infrastructures and multi-billion-dollar research and development budgets with which they could (and did) generate innovative artificial intelligence software of their own. Malkin wondered how a small software firm like Cogent Labs without its own proprietary datasets, or a large-scale computing infrastructure, or a multi-billion R&D budget could fit in? Would Cogent Labs' current approach of developing their own proprietary machine learning applications to run on the cloud and sell directly to financial services firms in Tokyo prove to be a sustainable model? Or would Cogent Labs ultimately need to partner/merge with one of the major cloud providers in order to provide the expertise necessary to customize their offerings for financial services clients? Or, was the future even more uncertain; would software firms like Cogent eventually need to create and own new datasets of their own, and build their own infrastructures to host their own new data, in order to avoid being disintermediated in the future if (and when) machine learning expertise became truly commoditized?