media release: rbc research engages top machine learning experts to bring reinforcement learning to the forefront of banking

TORONTO, January 18, 2017 — Following recent investments in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, RBC today announced Dr. Richard S. Sutton, one of the modern day pioneers of AI, as head academic advisor to RBC Research in machine learning. RBC Research will establish a new lab and plan to work with the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), based at the University of Alberta, to identify and pursue further research collaboration opportunities on an ongoing basis.

“We are thrilled to be opening a lab in Edmonton and to collaborate with world-class scientists like Dr. Sutton and the other researchers at Amii,” said Dr. Foteini Agrafioti, head of RBC Research. “RBC Research has built strong capabilities in deep-learning, and with this expansion, we are well poised to play a major role in advancing research in AI and impact the future of banking.”

Dr. Sutton is widely recognized for his work in reinforcement learning, an area of machine learning that focuses on making predictions without historical data or explicit examples. Reinforcement learning techniques have been shown to be particularly powerful in determining ideal behaviours in complex environments. Most recently, the techniques were used to secure a first-ever victory over a human world-champion in the game of Go, as well as recent applications in robotics and self-driving cars.

"The collaboration between RBC Research and Amii will help support the development of an AI ecosystem in Canada that will push the boundaries of academic knowledge," said Dr. Sutton. "With RBC's continued support, we will cultivate the next generation of computer scientists who will develop innovative solutions to the toughest challenges facing Canada and beyond. We've only scratched the surface of what reinforcement learning can do in finance and are excited to unleash even greater possibilities with this collaboration between RBC Research and Amii.”

“RBC is committed to helping build Canada’s digital future and our significant investments in AI represent part of that commitment,” said Gabriel Woo, vice-president of innovation at RBC. “We believe AI has the potential to bring about major improvements in areas such as client service, fraud prevention and risk management; advancements that will have far-reaching benefits in financial services and beyond. Partnering with a leading institution like the University of Alberta is an important step forward as we continue to explore this emerging technology.”

RBC Research is also collaborating with the University of Alberta to provide opportunities like internships, academic collaborations and exchanges with the Toronto-based research team to students and researchers. Dr. Eirene Seiradaki, academic partnerships lead at RBC, will be the key contact between RBC Research and professors, researchers and students interested in using machine learning to drive innovation in banking. With almost 20 years of experience in academics, Dr. Seiradaki joined RBC in 2016 and brings a strong commitment to fostering innovation and supporting the academic community.

RBC recently announced two additional initiatives in collaboration with the University of Toronto, ensuring Canada remains a leading centre of development in machine learning and AI.