China Construction Bank opens a branch only managed by robots

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China Construction Bank (CCB), the China’s second largest lender by assets, has opened an unstaffed, self-service bank branch in Shanghai this week, run by pure technology including facial recognition (FR), artificial intelligent (AI) and virtual reality (VR).

Hyped as a first for the Chinese banking industry, the Beijing-based bank says it has already installed 1,600 smart machines at its 360 branches in the city to ramp up its appeal to tech-savvy customers and trim staff costs.

Walking through the front door of the branch, users first meet a friendly looking robot that answers inquiries via voice recognition.

The 165 square metre ground floor outlet is equipped with several smart automated tellers capable of a range of services, including account opening, money transfer, foreign exchange, gold investment and the issue of wealth management products.

The bank says the new set up will be able to handle 90% of the cash and non-cash demands of traditional banking outlets. For a wealthy client in need of human help, however, a private room is reserved for remote chats with client relationship managers – via video link.

The branch’s creation, however, isn’t to everyone’s liking. Ada Shen, a CCB retail client, said she would not being going to the branch, not even just to experience the new kit. “I’m fine with mobile banking and smart machines available at traditional branches,” the white-collar worker in her 30s told South China Morning Post.

Using the branch is certainly surreal, according to the South China Post. First time visitors have their ID card scanned before gaining access. Customers are then offered a queue number by the robo-assistant. On subsequent visits, face recognition will be enough for the system to access customer information.

Users will then be met by a second robot in the lobby, which can answer further inquiries. Real humans are ready to offer a helping hand if the artificial assistants can’t solve complicated demands.

Quick response code points – those black bar codes, best known as QR codes – are available on screens for consumers to pay for products and services, or engage in small interactive augmented reality games to make the experience more of an occasion rather than just branch visit. A virtual reality machine is also available to showcase CCB’s latest home rental offerings.