As payments companies have reported quarterly earnings, one red-hot topic has come up repeatedly: artificial intelligence. Executives sharing company results have appeared eager to mention how their companies are already using AI, and how they hope to use it in the future.
Corporate discussion around AI has mushroomed since last November, when artificial intelligence company OpenAI launched a chatbot called ChatGPT. The technology has evolved rapidly, as have potential uses of it, inspiring payments companies to explore how they can incorporate generative AI.
Some executives mentioned using AI to cut costs internally, while others want to use it to power customer-facing products. But executives also stressed they are using these new tools with caution, threading the needle between excitement and concern.
AI is “something that we cannot afford to ignore,” Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach said during the company’s first-quarter earnings call in April. “We will lean in, but make sure that we are a trusted party when it comes to scaling it up.”
Card network company Visa is using AI to manage risk for real-time payments. During a fiscal third-quarter earnings call in July, CEO Ryan McInerney mentioned the San Francisco-based company is piloting an AI-powered fraud prevention tool in the U.K. The tool, which McInerney later said clients “have been very hungry for,” will help banks decide whether or not to approve a transaction in real time.
“We will be piloting our new fraud capability, RTP Prevent, which is uniquely built for instant payments with deep learning AI models,” McInerney said. “We can provide a risk score in real time so banks can decide whether to approve or reject a transaction on an RTP network.”
During a Q1 earnings call, Block Head Jack Dorsey didn’t provide specifics about how exactly the digital payments company would use AI. Dorsey spoke broadly about the company’s use of artificial intelligence, saying that tools such as machine learning are “something we’ve always employed at Block” and that the San Francisco-based company was “eager” to integrate generative AI into all of its products.
“We see this first as a way to create efficiencies both internally and for our customers,” Dorsey said during the call. “And we see many opportunities to apply these technologies to create entirely new features for our customers.”
Wex CEO Melissa D. Smith mentioned both machine learning and large language model AI during the company’s second-quarter earnings call last month. The Portland, Maine-based company which provides card payments services for corporate and government car fleets is using machine learning to “manage our existing portfolios and support future growth,” Smith said.
She also discussed how the company is using AI-powered tools for software engineers to “augment” their daily tasks. The tools have contributed to “meaningful productivity improvements” and cut down on the time and cost of developing new products, Smith said.
Looking ahead, Wex has launched an AI center of excellence to equip its data scientists and data analysts. The COE will help both groups learn best practices with the goal of bringing new products to market faster, Smith said.
Shift4, which provides integrated payments for restaurant, stadium and hotel clients, among others, was looking inward. The Allentown, Pennsylvania-based company was using AI to keep costs down and headcount flat, said CFO Nancy Disman during a Q2 earnings call this month.
Disman said the company is working to “replace legacy internal systems with Salesforce and other AI-based applications” in order to grow the business without hiring new employees. Shift4 cut 150 employees during the second quarter.
CEO Jared Isaacman also mentioned a specific AI use during the call: to program a restaurant point-of-sale system “in 30 minutes instead of five hours.”