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David Cameron takes senior role with US artificial intelligence firm

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
Former UK prime minister David Cameron. Photo: Getty

Former UK prime minister David Cameron will chair the advisory board of US artificial intelligence firm Afiniti.

In a statement, Afiniti said that Cameron will be responsible for “curating and overseeing the strategic guidance” provided to the company’s management team and board of directors.

Afiniti applies artificial intelligence to call centres, using machine learning and behavioural science to match customers with customer service agents. It raised $130m (£115m) last year in a funding round that valued the company at around $1.6bn (£1.4bn).

The move represents one of Cameron’s most significant appointments in the world of business since he stepped down as prime minister in the wake of the 2016 Brexit referendum result.

Cameron will chair a board of similarly prominent figures, including former French prime minister Francois Fillon, BP CEO Lord John Browne, and Michael Mullen, a former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“As the opportunities and challenges associated with artificial intelligence become increasingly clear, Mr Cameron’s experience of political leadership through periods of complexity, both domestically and on the international stage, will be invaluable as Afiniti focuses on driving growth by delivering tangible benefits to clients,” the company said.

Cameron said he was “delighted” to be asked to chair the company’s advisory board, and said his government “took a wide range of steps to ensure the UK was successful in the new tech industries.”

“I have been exploring developments in AI for some time to better understand how industry and policy-makers can collaborate in solving these challenges and ensuring that AI serves people's everyday lives,” Cameron said.

Afiniti noted the various positions Cameron has taken up in the not-for-profit sector, such as president of Alzheimer’s Research UK and chair of the National Citizen Service’s board of patrons.

Cameron also announced in December 2017 that he would lead an investment fund with the goal of linking the UK with the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s global development strategy, by promoting cooperation between the two countries.

The planned $1bn fund, however, is reportedly yet to complete its first round of fundraising.

Afiniti was founded by US-Pakistani entrepreneur Zia Chishti, a former Morgan Stanley banker known for inventing the Invisalign dental product.

Its most recent funding round saw it raise money from several illustrious figures, including former Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, who also sits on the advisory board, and Fred Ryan, the CEO and publisher of the Washington Post.