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Survey reveals industry’s AI appetite 

Finance and insurance SMEs have a better grasp of artificial intelligence (AI) and are more open to using the technology than other industries, a NAB business insights survey has found. 

About 46% of SMEs in finance and insurance say they understand the concept of AI and how it could help business while only 22% in retail have similar sentiments. 

Around 36% of finance and insurance SMEs have invested in emerging technology solutions, compared with 16% for retail, 13% for wholesale and 17% for construction. 

The number planning to invest was lowest in manufacturing (15%), construction (15%) and personal services (16%), and more than doubled in insurance and finance (31%). 

Within insurance and finance, 82% say using emerging technology will lead to productivity increases; 74% say it will cut down on administrative tasks; 46% believe it will make business more profitable; and 36% say it reduces the need to employ staff. 

NAB surveyed more than 700 SMEs across states and territories for the AI business insights report. 

The survey found SMEs see many benefits from using emerging technologies but challenges around training, lack of time and costs are holding them back. 

About 48% list the need for training as a barrier, 36% said time was an obstacle, while 35% felt not understanding AI was problematic, and 32% singled out cost as an issue. 

“Understanding of AI and how it can potentially help business is becoming widespread among Australian SMEs,” the report said. 

“Many Australian SMEs are already actively investing time or money in emerging technology solutions such as AI, machine learning … and automation to help run their business operations.”