Applications of robotics in the financial services industry
Credit: Bert van Dijk/Getty images.
Customer service robot Pepper was introduced in branches
The humanoid customer service robot Pepper is four feet tall and has a camera in its head, allowing it to recognise human faces. It engages people by welcoming them into the branch, interacting with customers in conversation, and through a touch screen tablet on its chest.
Pepper has been deployed by various banks globally, including HSBC, BBBank, Rabobank, ATB Financial, and Capital Bank. HSBC was the first bank to introduce Pepper in its branches, launching it in 2018, starting with its flagship US branch in New York.
Pepper aided in queue management by checking-in and checking-out customers, booking appointments, and offering product information, effectively digitalising receptions. An inbuilt visitor management system allowed Pepper to send emails and texts to inform the host of a customer’s arrival and to inform the customer of approximate waiting times. This was aimed at reducing delays in branches by giving customers an alternative point of access and information.
During the restrictions imposed by Covid-19, Pepper gives customers a contactless alternative to a human receptionist. Pepper helped maintain social distancing by reminding customers to stay 1.5 meters away from each other.
It was also equipped with mask detection technology to target people and remind them to wear a mask. Pepper also collected feedback from customers. Using a robot to collect this information may foster more honest and less diluted responses, reducing the social pressure or obligation where customers may try to protect another person’s feelings.
Pepper's capabilities are limited, so the robot is more of a marketing gimmick. Adopting a Pepper has become a performative gesture for banks to demonstrate that they are digitalising their branches. However, it also shows which banks are trying to stay ahead of the curve and which are exploring new potential technological advancements, searching for tools that will escalate digitalisation.
A robotic arm transformed ATM testing
ABB originally designed its YuMi robot for small-parts assembly operations. However, the two-armed collaborative robot has been deployed to test ATM software to make it more secure and reliable. It was developed for Abrantix to test Diebold Nixdorf's ATMs to improve their quality. ATMs receive software updates every six months, meaning they must undergo rigorous testing to ensure they comply with global security and usability regulations.
This testing consists of inserting a bank card, typing in PIN codes, and withdrawing and depositing money. Traditionally this testing was done manually, taking many hours and with a high risk of human error. YuMi has been programmed to replicate errors frequently performed by humans. The introduction of the YuMi robot has allowed this testing to be conducted 24 hours a day and improved the speed and reliability of ATM software. Developers are able to create new software features which the robot then tests overnight.
Drones support lending services with inspection and monitoring
Drones can be a useful tool in risk mitigation for banks by conducting the inspection and monitoring required for lending services. Banks often use or sub-contract engineering companies that use drone technologies to analyse and conduct key protocols like property analysis.
For example, financial institutions contract DroneDeploy to verify property value by compiling high-quality videos, photos, and even 3D models. DroneDeploy facilitates a comprehensive view of any property. If the lender finds these adequate in assessing property value, this can effectively negate the need for third-party assessors and inspectors, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
This can also be a more appealing solution than using satellite imagery, which can be of lesser quality, or using a helicopter or plane, which is also time-consuming and expensive.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, using drones would also reduce the number of workers on site, mitigating the risk of virus outbreaks amongst the workforce. The drones are connected to a centralised platform so sharing images and data with shareholders and lenders is easy, facilitating remote collaboration.
Goldman Sachs used drones to close M&A deals during the pandemic
Goldman Sachs has been using commercial-grade drones flown over assets such as warehouses, real estate, shipping ports, and railroads to give clients that are bidding on these properties a virtual view. This was especially useful during the pandemic in 2020 when travel became difficult, and most transactions were completed remotely.
In a CNBC interview Stephan Feldgoise, the global head of mergers and acquisitions at Goldman Sachs, said that of the several hundred transactions that Goldman Sachs advised on during the pandemic, more than 95% were done without any element of face-to-face interaction. The use of drones will be a residual behavior from the pandemic that will be kept after restrictions have ended. Feldgoise said, “we believe it will change the M&A landscape forever.”
GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.
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