Karl Aksel Festø, DNB


Head of advanced analytics CoE, DNB

Karl Aksel Festø is the Head of Advanced Analytics CoE (Centre of Excellence) in DNB.


His educational background is from economics, where he has a Cand.Oecon degree from the University in Oslo (UiO). Karl Aksel worked as an analyst in DNB for 10 years, focusing mainly on applying quantitative analysis related to marketing, product development and distribution strategy.


He has built substantial experience using data and algorithms to gain insights, improve efficiency and provide new services to their customers.


After five years heading the customer insights team in Corporate banking, Karl Aksel joined DNB's newly established groupwide CDO division in 2019 to mature DNB on data & analytics. 

Tell us about your first encounter with artificial intelligence (AI)?

Met the term when I headed a customer insights team focusing on corporates. May have been in 2014. Applications using massive amounts of data, statistics and Machine Learning had been present for a long time and the definitions varied a lot.


What is your competence within the field of AI? 

Depending on how to interpret AI. As a trained economist and working with data, statistics and a set of data driven algorithms am I able to understand the possibilities and limitations. Defined broadly, like EU and the Norwegian government, I have been part of building this type of solutions. Narrow definitions limited to neural networks and fully autonomous solutions less so. Luckily I have a team supporting me on my shortcomings. 

Why did you develop an interest in AI? 

I have always been eager to exploit what is possible by leveraging data and analytics in different processes. I have seen that it is possible to build products and features deemed smart and that the models behind outperform humans, both in terms of speed, endurance, consistency and accuracy. Why not apply it in even more solutions and with new data? 

Can you recommend a relevant book or film about AI? 

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. Not so much on AI, but related and utterly interesting perspectives. 

Why should we, or should we not, be afraid of AI? 

Difficult question. DNB is committed to work with ethical AI and we see that the research community also embraces this prerequisite. AI solutions will be part of our lives and we need an open discussion on how these models affects our lives. We often tend to assume that all choices taken by humans are sound, but hopefully it wil be taken better and more open decisions from AI solutions going forward. 

Which field, in your opinion, has the most to benefit from AI – and why? 

It will impact many, nearly all, industries so hard to tell. Interestingly it may be that industries deemed difficult to automate, like white-collar jobs, that may be most deeply affected. 

How should the use of AI develop in the future?

In an ethical way, but still driven by curiosity and exploration.  

Why should participants tune in during AI+? 

Hopefully DNBs strive to mature in this domain is relevant for other industries looking to improve themselves. Many challenges in the AI&data space are generic and we see that different industries shares our findings and challenges. 

Karl Aksel Festø is a speaker at the AI+ virtual conference 2021.