As we find ourselves racing toward the end of February, 2019 is already proving to be a year as frantic, and frankly dramatic, as its predecessor.

While only six weeks into the year, we can already begin to draw more in-depth and granular conclusions as to what will be the major themes to dominate the financial media throughout the rest of the year.

At first glance, it seems that there will be some degree of continuation from the media themes of 2018, most notably with regards to geopolitical risk. While we may have entered a new year, the ongoing stories around Brexit, trade tensions between China and the US, and the expansion of President Trump’s protectionism are proving as potent and as talked about as ever.

ESG also remains as central as ever, and despite concerns regarding the impact of Trump’s anti-climate change rhetoric (and the potential removal of key legislature in this area), the landscape regarding responsible and sustainable investing is only growing, with a recent Morgan Stanley survey highlighting that around 70% of asset managers are incorporating ESG credentials into their investment processes.

However, among these existing themes, there are new trends that are beginning to emerge as key sources of interest from journalists and investors alike. Of these themes, one clearly stands out: Artificial Intelligence. Whether we can see it or not, it seems clear that Artificial Intelligence is changing financial services, and with the sector being as competitive as ever, traditional companies are racing to improve their back-office processes in order to improve efficiencies, cut costs and ultimately to get ahead of the crowd. While AI (and technology more broadly) has been much discussed over several years, it is becoming more relevant and influential than ever.

When analysing the financial landscape, media coverage figures back this up. When comparing 2017 and 2018, there has been a 36% rise in the quantity of coverage regarding AI within the UK’s financial media according to Factiva, a global media database, illustrating the growth in both articles on the topic, as well as the underlying interest in the subject matter from the readership of these titles. It’s also worth noting that, while the coverage is largely discussing how managers are utilising AI within their investment process, this figure for 2018 also includes the launch of multiple AI products from prominent asset management firms. This commitment by fund managers also reinforces that this trend isn’t simply a ‘craze’ likely to fade away over the coming months and years.

So, the big question remains: will we see a continued growth from this trend over 2019? While it may be too early to say for certain, when comparing the figures for the month of January across 2018 and 2019, there has been a 20% rise in the volume of AI coverage this year. While we never know for certain how media / news agendas may change, it does seem clear that AI is a rising trend and that we will hear much more about this before the end of the year. Indeed, as with the incorporation of ESG by asset managers, it isn’t inconceivable that before long we will be in an environment where managers will be expected to have some form of AI capabilities in order to stand out from their competitors, if we aren’t there already.