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The AI Factor

May 28, 2024 John Gallagher _ Business Writer.Staff byline mugs, Wednesday, April 4, 2012.

John Gallagher | Business Columnist, Detroit Free Press

Cutting-Edge Technology Powering Michigan Finance Firms

Jerome Powell, Chair of the Federal Reserve, raised some eyebrows recently when he suggested that artificial intelligence (AI) may not produce as many gains in productivity as some hope, at least not in the short run.

But don’t tell that to Michigan-based finance companies, where rapid adaption of AI is producing big results. At firms like Detroit-based Rocket Mortgage and Grand Rapids-based insurance and finance firm Acrisure, AI systems have saved thousands of hours of manual work and enhanced the consumer experience.

“We’re applying AI across the board at every step of the journey and we’re finding some amazing opportunities to drive a better experience for the client,” said Varun Krishna, Chief Executive Officer of Rocket Companies.

Predictive Modeling Creating Big Benefits

Artificial intelligence refers to behavior or conclusions learned from mining vast amounts of data, instead of relying on traditional programming. Before AI, advertisers might presume all young men enjoy beer or sports; but with AI learning from data, they can offer a more finely tuned approach tailored to each individual.

Known as predictive modeling, it creates a huge benefit. Greg Williams, co-founder, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Acrisure, put it this way: “Joe in Dallas might have a relationship with a prospect or a client, but for selling another product it might not be Joe who should be calling on them, it might be Mary in Los Angeles or Spokane. So the (AI) platform is really effective at connecting the right mix of opportunities people and talent.”

And the results have proven out quickly. Acrisure began integrating AI into its operations just five years ago, but today brokers who use the company’s proprietary AI program are seeing their closings grow more than three times faster than those not using it. “It truly is transforming everything about our business,” Williams said.

Don’t Fear AI, Learn From It


At a time when deepfakes on social media and other abuses show the scary side of artificial intelligence, proponents of the technology say we shouldn’t lose sight of the benefits of AI.


Ann Marie Sastry Headshot

Ann Marie Sastry, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Amesite

“People are very frightened. They shouldn’t be,” said Ann Marie Sastry, founder of the AI-focused educational training company Amesite. She agrees that safety measures have to be put in place. But “the most imperative thing is that people learn how to use these tools immediately so that they don’t get left behind. We want to make sure that AI tools are in the hands of everybody.”


To cite just one benefit, differently abled people who have difficulty writing a cover letter or composing simple documents find that AI gives them the tools they need to succeed. “Accountants used to be good at adding up columns of numbers. The calculator changed that,” Sastry says. AI will bring similar liberating changes to life.


“Helping people really learn to harness that technology and use it, is an honor,” she said. “I love what I do.”

Doing More for the Consumer Faster

Another benefit is to reduce the manual workload of routine tasks. At Rocket, mortgages require a lot of documentation; the company takes in some 1.5 million separate documents per month, Krishna said. With its in-house AI system called Rocket Logic, the company now analyses those documents automatically, saving 5,000 hours of work by humans. And the AI program also extracts 4.3 million data points and processes them, saving
another 4,000 hours of manual work.

“For the consumer, what they care about is speed,” Krishna said. “When you put all of this together, it allows us to do more for the consumer faster.”

The education field has been slower to adopt AI, but firms that use it report similarly robust results.

At Ann Arbor-based education firm Amesite, founder and Chief Executive Officer Ann Marie Sastry said client firms and universities that use its AIbased learning modules report an astonishing 97% retention rate on lessons, compared to a non-AI industry standard rate around 60%. It works, she said, because the AI program can tailor lessons to individual students’ pace and needs, offering not only 24/7 access but a range of peer-reviewed articles and materials to back up lesson plans.

Varun Krishna headshot

“We’re applying AI across the board at every step of the journey and we’re finding some amazing opportunities to drive a better experience for the client.”

– Varun Krishna, Chief Executive Officer, Rocket Companies

“You get the fundamentals as well as what’s happening in the world,” she said.

Caution remains. Firms like Rocket and Acrisure already sit on vast stores of their own data from past transactions, allowing AI to conduct deep dives to learn. But some fear that more public data sets are quickly being mined and will be exhausted soon, curbing the future ability of AI systems to learn beyond current levels. Others fear soaking up huge pools of data from multiple sources will raise privacy concerns or run afoul of copyright laws.

All that’s to be decided in coming years. For now, many Michigan companies are celebrating the advantages that AI brings both for consumers and for the bottom line.


AI graphic