Chennai: Endearing, interactive and superfast with data, India’s first banking robot Lakshmi made her debut on Thursday in the city. Launched by the Kumbakonam-based City Union Bank, the artificial intelligence powered robot will be the first on-site bank helper.
Top private lender HDFC Bank, which is also experimenting with robots to answer customer queries, is testing its humanoid at its innovation lab. Lakshmi, which took more than six months to develop, can answer intelligently on more than 125 subjects.
Want to know your account balance? Interest rates on home loans? Deferred payments or possible charges to be incurred on fixed deposit closure? Lakshmi can answer it all. “Apart from answering generic questions, we have also programmed it to connect to the core banking solution. If a customer wants to know his bank account details or transaction history, the robot can flash the answer on its display,” said N Kamakodi, MD and CEO, City Union Bank.
Sensitive financial information like account details are displayed discreetly on the robot’s screen and not voiced. “Lakshmi only talks out loud on generic subjects. If you visited our branch with your girlfriend, she won’t embarrass you by showing your low account balance,” joked its CEO.
Lakshmi, who currently speaks in English, gestures, turns around and engages in a very life-like manner in conversations. Unlike most robots her speech is not formal, but more relaxed and casual. “Since its artificial intelligence, the robot is constantly learning from customers – the more interactions it has with customers the better it gets,” said a bank executive.
And what if a question stumps Lakshmi? “She then asks you to get in touch with the branch manager. But at the back-end, we will be collecting all the questions she was unable to answer and equip her with better data sets, so she can service customers. Today she can give real time updates of foreign exchange movement, current interest rates at banks for different asset classes like personal, educational, two-wheeler and home loans, possible charges on withdrawals or deposits. But going forward, she might be able to more than that,” said its assembler Vijay V Shah of Coimbatore-based Vishnu Engineering.
In the next few months, City Union will aim at programming the humanoid to greet customers in Tamil. “We are also looking at enabling it so that it can service visually challenged individuals. Worldwide very few banks employ robots at branches and we want to bring a whole new experience to India,” said CEO Kamakodi.
Currently, the bank has readied only one version of Lakshmi and has plans for 25-30 robots deployed at key branches by the end of the year if Lakshmi proves a hit with customers. The bank was planning on Lakshmi’s debut on Thursday at its T.Nagar branch. But given the rush due to the demonetization drive and customers thronging the branches for exchanging withdrawn notes, Lakshmi might go public only on Monday.