Automation in banking services is fast catching up. Starting with the introduction of the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) in the early 1990s and Centralised Banking Solutions (CBS) a little later, and then moving on to Internet and mobile banking services, banks have been quickly adopting new technology.
Now, banks are moving to the next level — using robots as a self-service tool. And, City Union Bank, headquartered in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, has taken the lead in this space.
The two-foot robot ‘Lakshmi’, as it is fondly called, is now drawing customers when they step into the bank’s branch at Ramnagar in Coimbatore.
When asked what made the bank go for a bot, N Kamakodi, CEO, said the inspiration came from a conversation he had with a US-based friend working in the banking technology line.
His friend had told him that robots are being used world-over for jobs that are repetitive in nature — not just in the manufacturing space but in responding to FAQs (frequently asked questions) as well. After spotting a bot at the International Banking Technology Conference in Singapore, the bank decided to go for it.
As luck would have it, a company in Coimbatore had taken the agency for the robot. It took five to six months to integrate the bot with the bank’s CBS.
Initially, the bot could converse — welcome the user and answer queries on interest rate and provide other basic information in English. The latest model converses in Tamil as well, Kamakodi said.
The bank has since installed five robots — at three branches in Chennai, one each at Kumbakonam and Coimbatore. It is planning to have 100 bots in a year’s time. Over time, the bank intends to use Lakshmi — the Artificial Intelligence powered robot — to support other banking jobs with insightful data and analytics.
A five-member team is constantly monitoring customer interactions and Lakshmi’s response, Kamakodi said.
“Taking cue from the robot, we introduced a ChatBot (similar to online chatting service) on our site. As more than 83 per cent of our operations take place via the online mode, we sensed the need for a Chatbot to respond to FAQs. More than 1,000 people are using this service. We intend to personalise the Chatbot to enable customers to ask accountspecific information. It will be rolled out soon,” Kamakodi said.
Cub Lakshmi, the ‘Robot at Your Service’, at the Ram Nagar branch of City Union Bank in Coimbatore S SIVA SARAVANAN