On Feb. 28, 2019, AlphaSense CMO Kate Thunnissen and Head of Product: Search & AI Chris Ackerson sat down to discuss the state of AI, and how augmented intelligence is transforming workflows for IR professionals. If you missed the live event, don’t worry — check out some highlights below:
Kate: AI is the hot topic everyone wants to talk about. But I’m not sure we all know exactly what it is. Can you give us a baseline?
Chris: The term “AI” has been used since the earliest days of computing to represent attempts to make computing systems feel “smarter” or more “human-like.” Now, and really for the last decade or so, there’s been important technology breakthroughs that have reignited interest in the technology. For AlphaSense, AI simply means that our ability to understand language gets better with the more data our platform consumes.
Kate: Can you tell us more about what NLP, or ‘Natural Language Processing’ is?
Chris: NLP is the branch of computer science that enables computers to understand the variance and nuance of human language. And machine learning is the branch of computer science that enables computers to learn from data. So those two fields form the basis of AlphaSense AI.
Kate: Who are some of the big players in AI innovation today?
Chris: The major breakthroughs in AI research are coming out of academia and the big tech companies like Google, Facebook and IBM. But a lot of the most interesting applications of AI are coming from startups. But one of the easiest ways for companies to get exposure to AI is to look for SaaS startups offering tools powered by AI. At AlphaSense, we aggregate text documents from thousands of sources like company filings, call transcripts, investor presentations, sell-side research, news, etc. On top of all that content, we’ve built an intelligent search layer that makes key insights really easy and quick to discover.
Kate: Our listeners are from the corporate world, specifically Investor Relations. They get asked to do a lot, and a lot is expected of them. Can you give some background on how AlphaSense works with these teams?
Chris: AlphaSense started in the hedge fund space with analysts looking to make investment decisions. We learned pretty early on that IR teams want to use the same tools as their clients, those investors impacting their company. We now have more than 450 IR groups using AlphaSense, including more than half of the Dow 30.
Kate: Obviously one part of their job is knowing what the market is saying, or what their peers are up to. How can AI help?
Chris: With legacy tools, “CTRL+F” type search would require you to search individually on each keyword, each standard name and you’d still be left thinking you might have missed something. With AlphaSense Smart Synonyms, you can search once and feel confident that AlphaSense is bringing back all the relevant content for that search.
Kate: IR teams also need to “know themselves.” How can AI help there?
Chris: A really popular feature in AlphaSense is called “ reverse search.” This is the ability to search any mention of your company excluding your own documents. We organize all of the content in AlphaSense by the key companies, people and industries discussed in them. By eliminating mentions of your company within search, you can get a complete picture of the external conversation about your company.
Kate: Those were some qualitative use cases. Quantitative insights are just as critical — IR teams obviously need the numbers. How does NLP handle that?
Chris: First, we integrate key financial data in addition to documents in AlphaSense — financial performance, acquisition history, funding history, etc. We also allow easy discovery and export of numeric content from documents, like revenue guidance numbers and table extraction for charts and other files.
Kate: IR teams also go to conferences and attend roadshows. I imagine they must have years of notes. Would AI help there?
Chris: We have pre-built connectors to many of the places IR teams store their own content like Microsoft Office, Sharepoint, and other note-taking tools. Any content uploaded to AlphaSense goes through the same AI platform as public documents, so the same smart organization and Smart Search applies, but in a completely secure environment.
Kate: What about the future? With any emerging technology, there’s always concerns. What are your thoughts?
Chris: Technology is improving at an incredible rate, so it’s right for people to be paying attention. In our case, our users aren’t being paid to search, they are being paid to solve higher-order problems like “should we acquire this company, or make this investment?” Or, “how should we respond to this analyst question?” We see AlphaSense as augmented intelligence that empowers our users to stay at the top of their game in an increasingly automated world.
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