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Now, a robot to assist you at HDFC Bank; first humanoid in India's banking

Nupur Anand / Mumbai 10 Jan 17 | 09:06 AM

HDFC Bank’s Country Head (Digital Banking) Nitin Chugh at the launch of ‘humanoid’ Ira.

HDFC Bank, the country’s second-largest private one, will be using robots at its branches, to assist customers.

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Nitin Chugh, their country head for digital banking, said more ‘humanoids’ would be deployed after seeing the response from customers. Then, the scale of work done with these would be expanded.

This is part of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) project it began last year, to improve its technological capability. The bank is looking at using AI to better its customer service, beside marketing, process automation and other aspects. It is also looking at using these methods to drive growth in rural areas, for which it is open to partnering with financial technology entities working in these places.

City Union Bank has put a humanoid to use at a branch in Chennai. Initially, it had said, the robot would answer generic banking-related queries from customers. Later, to be integrated with banking systems-enabling transactions, and to improve the automation processes.

Several other lenders are also now getting into the use of AI or software robotics. For instance, ICICI Bank has been using AI to perform tasks such as generating customer IDs, updating addresses and mobile numbers, and resolving automated teller machine-related queries. It, Axis Bank and YES Bank have also started using blockchain technology. “We are evaluating all kinds of use-cases on blockchain, including document management, KYC (know-your-customer) and transaction processing, among others," says Chugh. “However, it is early days for this and we have not come across mature models in India. We are also interested in network blockchain, where multiple banks come together for this technology."

HDFC says a majority of its customers have moved to digital banking (71 per cent at end-March 2016). So, it says, it is focusing on a second leg of the digital process.  In line with this, it has forayed into the use of chatbots, computer programs powered by AI and which can imitate conversations like a human, for help with transactions such as recharge, bill payment and so on.

It says it is also inviting ideas from start-ups as it looks at the Internet of Things, Virtual Reality, AI, blockchain and rural fintech.

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