In India, in the early 1980s, leading banks, including SBI, set up their data processing cells for reconciliation and a bit of Management Information System (MIS). Essentially, back-office bankers engaged in routine repetitive tasks were replaced substantially by machines. The next replacement wave came with a major disruption called the Automated Teller Machine (ATM). The result was scores of tellers and cashiers were replaced by machines, ridding drudgery both from customers and bankers. Cash deposit machines, cash recyclers, cheque deposit machines, self-service kiosks were enhancements of the success of ATMs.
Today, bot-led machine deployment in banks is on high steam in many countries. Voice and body language algorithms, a combination of smart blending of unique biometric characteristics, language and semantics based on grammar, etymology and language intelligence are essential for good chat and video bots. Today, in State Bank of India (SBI) for example, more than 80% of the transactions are done in non-branch journeys, i.e. not touched by any SBI employee, only through machines! SBI in its new digital platforms like SBI inTouch is widely using bots and artificial intelligence, like IBM’s Watson, to perform a variety of jobs. Stylist designs, superior and differentiated user interfaces and experiences are driving adoption.
Men and machines shall coexist in banks for some time, like they do in any modern walk of life. Nevertheless, banks and bankers should not relax. The speed and disruption, primarily led by innovators and tech companies, could come sooner than expected. They should relentlessly prepare by:
- Building a habitat of both data and analytics
- Ramping up skills for building and refining machine learning and artificial intelligence
- Identifying key work processes to be transferred to robots; and
- Doing proofs of concept extensively and of course re-engineering the culture of internal and external collaboration.
The game has begun.