Bot in the Branch

Robot-Branch-Bank

As kids, we grew up with Giant Robot and Johnny Sokko, a TV series that captured the fantasy of an entire generation. We all loved to emulate Johnny’s voice commands to his watch, and the resultant aerobics of his obedient Giant Robot. Robots of today might not be capable of the spectacular muscle power of The Giant Robot, but they can more than compensate with their brain power with unlimited capability to crunch numbers & data, analyze, recommend and learn on the go.

Trust the Japanese to automate mundane jobs to bring about efficiency in processes. What started off as a typical shop floor / assembly line innovation, has now progressed to Robots manning customer interactions at Bank branch counters. Please note that branch counters are customer engagement points and not just service delivery touch points. There is a need for an emotional connect wherein branch staff need to sympathize, empathize and find out opportunities for cross sell, up sell and resolve issues, all in real time.

Any talks of machines taking over intellectual, conversational and humane activities are always suspect to being dismissed as too ambitious. That didn’t stop Bank of Tokyo from introducing Nao, a front facing robot that responds to customers based on their words and facial expressions. Here, it is a nifty combination of AI, Robotics and IOT that delivers a wholesome “human experience” to customers, without making them feel like they are talking to a soulless machine.

Even as a customer walks into the branch, he can be identified based on facial recognition, or mobile phones using NFC / RFID and a robot that is free can take charge. Feature this scenario, you are in a branch which is not your home branch. You are greeted by a friendly robot that takes down your problem, looks up an internal database, and if needed connects to the robot at your home branch for any historical data to solve your problem. In a world of interconnected machines, all this is possible real time. This is branch banking at the speed of thought that ensures speedy resolution.

Not just query resolution, but robots can also perform teller functions, provide investment updates and even suggest wealth maximization options. However, the above is an end state that is most coveted. It would need a lot of deep machine learning, number and data crunching to reach a level of finesse where robots can completely obviate the need for humans at the branch.

Robots can solve two problems. One is of availability and second is of efficiency. They can be programmed to be always around, thereby keeping the branch up and running 24/7, providing unprecedented customer service. Second is of efficiency, whereby they not only take care of repetitive tasks, but learn on the go and replicate human intellect in the long run.

Siri, Alexa and other bots are just precursors to the Robot era that is in the offing. These robots would give a face to Siri and others which are more of voices in the box. A Robot take interfaces to the next level of being good listeners, rather than just doers of the current era. With their continuous interactions with humans and ability to learn, we can believe that as we go ahead, we might have our own Jeeves (in a robot form) when we visit the branch, with a stiff upper lip and an idea up its sleeves to solve our problems!!

Padmanabhan R

Padmanabhan RCareer Banker, Galleried Photographer and Travel Columnist. Also develop banking applications in free time. Finished my CA and have done my tour of duty with organizations like Times Group, ICICI Bank and Yes Bank, before landing up in Clayfin to create digital banking channel solutions.