06/02/2018 / By Edsel Cook
China, a country that has no shortage of manpower, has decided to open its first ever bank branch with robot tellers instead of human ones. In an EJ Insight article, the branch in question plans to transition into a staff-less facility.
To enter the robot branch of the China Construction Bank (CCB), a customer swipes either an identity card or a bank card at an electronic turnstile. An artificial intelligence program uses face recognition software to confirm the identity of the person.
Once inside the branch itself, the customer can pick between various “smart” machines that offer more than 90 percent of the cash and non-cash transactions found at a normal bank. It is possible to open an account, transfer money, exchange foreign money, buy gold, and even manage one’s wealth.
If you want to talk to an actual human being, you need to have a lot of money. Then you can get a private room and talk to a “relationship manager.” But you still won’t be talking to a human in person because the conversation takes places over video. (Related: Rise of the robots: 8 professions that will be taken over by AI technology.)
Located in central Shanghai, the robot bank occupies the ground floor of the building. About the only human people present are burly security guards. The two floors above it contain conventional CCB offices with human staff for the really old-fashioned folk. The robot bank down below draws reporters and busybodies. Bank employees like Ms. Liu say the new branch is testing out the concept of a staff-less office. CCB will base its final decision on its performance.
The second biggest bank in the country, CCB operates 360 branches in Shanghai alone. Divided between those branches are 1,600 “smart” machines that can offer transactions aside from cash deposits and withdrawals.
This new great leap forward is taking place at the 228,700 bank branches found in China. The country’s financial industry is automating like mad. In Shanghai, many residents have switched to using their mobile phones and Alipay for their transactions. Electronic payments are now the norm for transportation fares, food, groceries, and other products and services. Online and mobile banks are even challenging state-operated banks like CCB, which decided to step up by debuting its robot bank.
Young people like Liang Min are perfectly fine with this fully electronic financial world. Even the threat of sophisticated hackers is not enough to deter their belief in the system’s security. Meanwhile, Wang Wei-ling and other older residents look askance on the robot bank branch and the automated transactions. They insist on paying for their purchases with physical money and wonder about a future when the shops in their city no longer take cash.
The Chinese banking industry is not the only one adopting computers and robots. In Shanghai alone, many traditional businesses are either closing down or adopting automation and electronic systems.
The city government has approved an Uber-style taxi service that can be requested via mobile device. As a result, the traditional cab business has taken a huge hit. Likewise, the new generation of Shanghai residents rely on their mobile devices for their information and news. This drove many of the magazine and newspaper stalls out of business.
China is buying into robotics as well. The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) noted that it will buy 150,000 robots in 2018 alone. The country is also developing electric vehicles, driver-less cars, and artificial intelligence (AI) like the one that checks the identities of customers at CCB’s robot bank branch in Shanghai.
Find out how you can survive the robot takeover at Robots.news.