/ August 12, 2020
AI and Robotics have entered the banking space, disrupting things like never before. Banking organizations across the world have realized its extraordinary potential and are investing heavily in these cognitive technologies. The strategy is expected to yield huge dividends providing the desired operational bandwidth and cost efficiencies that help attain a competitive edge. As humanoids replace humans, most of the banking functions will be done by the AI machines, changing the very fabric and structure of banks.
So, what all can the robots do and how are banks benefited? Let’s look at it from the perspectives of banking operations, customer service, and sales.
Most banks today have large workforces working in the bank’s back offices performing data entry jobs. They do everything from account opening to cheque clearing to collections and payments and others.
The entry of robots has induced a new line of thinking in banks – ‘Anything that can be standardized can be robotized’.
Today’s sophisticated robots are capable of scanning through the account opening forms, machine-read the data, and populate the various fields on the bank’s core banking system. They can do likewise for all other standardized forms and easily replace data entry jobs. These new subordinates are a manager’s delight as they can work tirelessly for hours without complaining. The output quality expected can be a perfect six sigma or with very minimal errors. Robots have a much higher chance of succeeding in operations compared to other functions in the bank. They are the new emerging workforce today complementing human resources.
WILL BANKS GO FOR IT?
Let’s do a simple cost-benefit analysis.
Cost for Banks
Benefits for Banks
Salary and compensations are a big cost center for banks. Use of robots will help reduce costs by eliminating:
As one can see, the benefits far outweigh the costs. Banks will readily adopt these technologies that help reduce substantial costs for them. And the cost is only one of the benefits, others being process efficiencies, quality assurance, enhanced operational bandwidth, data security, customer satisfaction, and others.
Robots are already working in customer service in banks in the form of chatbots and voice bots. If you login to a bank’s website or dial in the phone banking unit, you will be greeted by EVA or Electronic Virtual Assistant. EVA can comfortably handle all routine queries and standard FAQs. They are constantly evolving, and one can expect them to get increasingly sophisticated over time and be able to handle larger complex deliverables.
Some banks have introduced robots in their branches as well. They greet walk-in customers and assist them on various queries ranging from wanting to know your account balance to interest rates on home loans to charges on fixed deposit closures and many others. They are like EVA who can answer standard questions. They even guide and usher customers to the respective bank counters.
While all of these can help enhance customer service at the branches, the following are some potential demerits that I can think of:
Can robots do sales?
We all know that banking today is a buyer’s market and to acquire a business, banks need to reach out to customers at a time and place of their choice. Customers always like to discuss their finance in person due to the sensitive nature of the information involved. Let’s for a minute, imagine an over-zealous bank who wants to show off their AI capabilities, decide to deploy robots in sales. They hire a robot, give him the required training, and then assign sales targets.
The robot sets out to meet a prospective client at Andheri, a suburb in Mumbai. He goes to the Dadar railway station which is one of the most crowded stations in Mumbai. He then attempts to enter a jampacked Mumbai local during peak hours. Can you fathom what will happen to the robot?
You can expect the robot’s face, hands, legs, and body ripped apart and strewn in different parts of the platform, and he may even need to be admitted to trauma Care in ICU. A Sale is a distant dream but even before that, he needs to find his feet and be in one single piece. Impossible, isn’t it?
Another plausible possibility would be that the robot finds its way to Chor-Bazaar where it will be dismantled and sold in parts, never to be seen again.
A robot salesman trying to enter a Mumbai local
Robots are indeed helping automate processes in banks but what cannot be robotized are client interfacing roles like sales and relationship management and certain parts of customer service. These functions can be handled by humans and humans alone. That’s because when you are dealing with customers, you are dealing with human emotions. You should be able to have a cup of coffee with your clients. You should be able to have pleasant conversations with your clients. You should be able to discuss their family, their financial goals, likes & dislikes, and others. Human beings are sociable by nature and they would rather interact and confide with a person than a machine. Selling is one skill that will never go out of fashion. It’s a lifetime skill and will always be in great demand. As per recent hiring trends in banks, most of the job opportunities are in sales and so it makes perfect sense to acquire this very important skill.
We now have a fair idea of what robots can do and what they can’t. With technology taking care of banking operations, many banks are retraining, reskilling, and redeploying their employees in client interfacing roles. A new banking paradigm can be expected to emerge sooner. This is only the beginning of a new robotic era and the potential vast.
It would be good if bank job aspirants and working bankers align themselves with these changing job dynamics, stay relevant, and charter their careers accordingly.