Bill Hoffman was recruited into the CIA as a high schooler, spending seven years at the agency before entering the private sector in the late 90s.
Then Sept. 11 happened. On Sept. 12, Hoffman called up each branch of the Armed Forces and joined the U.S. Navy Reserve as an intelligence officer for the next nine years.
In those roles, Hoffman learned the importance of helping people make good decisions. "The difference between a good one and a bad one was life and death," he said.
Today, Hoffman is the chief analytics officer and head of customer relationship management for U.S. Bank, leading the bank's efforts in areas such as augmented intelligence and machine learning. He acknowledges that banking "isn't life or death" but says that he was attracted to it for the opportunity to make a difference in people's lives.
"I've always tried to pick work that makes an impact," said Hoffman. "If we can use data and intelligence to help our customers make better financial decisions, then that's meaningful."
Last week, Hoffman was a keynote speaker at Dreamforce, a tech conference and block party hosted by Salesforce that drew 171,000 people to downtown San Francisco. He spoke about U.S. Bank's pioneering use of Salesforce's artificial intelligence platform, Einstein, which Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff unveiled at last year's event.
This year, Benioff spoke about how the world is in the onset of "the Fourth Industrial Revolution," describing how intelligence can have the same transformative impact on businesses and the economy as steam, electricity and computing.
"[The Fourth Industrial Revolution] is all around us … We're all working to connect with our customers in an incredible new way," said Benioff.
U.S. Bank was one of the first companies to tap Einstein, using it to help bankers build relationships with customers by having the right conversation at the right time. For example, Einstein can spot and notify bankers of anything from spending patterns indicative of prospective first-time homebuyers to news articles about customers receiving awards in their community. Customers expect their bank to know them in this digital age, Hoffman said.
I asked Hoffman about his ideal banking experience. He thought for a moment, then started talking about family vacations to Disney World. You walk in and put on the MagicBand, he said, and then Disney guides you through a personalized trip based on what your family has told them that you want to experience.
"The Disneys, Amazons and Apples of the world are the bar," said Hoffman. "Our customers don't compare us to other banks, they compare us to whoever is providing their very best user experience."
U.S. Bank brought on Einstein for that reason: to help employees connect with customers. And for Hoffman, it's another opportunity to enable good decision-making, a passion he found and skill he honed while serving the country.
"We say 'augmented intelligence' because there's nothing 'artificial' about building good relationships with people," said Hoffman. "With Einstein, we're helping human beings do what they do best, which is to be a human being."
Pat Swanson is in public affairs and communications with U.S. Bank. Learn more about Dreamforce and U.S. Bank's augmented intelligence work in the latest Power of Possible podcast episode, in which Hoffman sat down for a conversation with Salesforce executive Peter Doolan.