The Hindu Business Line - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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