Banking as an industry has never been shy experimenting with technology – any means to reach the end consumer has been sought after. With Alexas and Google Homes being the talk of the town now, HDFC has made the first move(Indian) towards voice assisted banking and artificial intelligence. Last week, HDFC launched the second version of IRA ( the first one was launched in Mumbai over a year ago) If you walk to into their Koramangala branch in Bangalore next time, watch out the interactive humanoid employed.
With the help of a lab in Kerala, HDFC has developed a shiny humanoid that can respond to customer queries, guide them to counters all the while helping them with voice and a touchscreen. The idea was to keep it inclusive and that in our view, is definitely a good use of technology. The robot even has options to adjust volume and speed. All the answers that it gives is also displayed on the touchscreen. The robot can give answers to generic questions such as “What is the interest rate for a home loan?” or “How do I reset my PIN” so on and so forth.
IRA can even walk you to a specific counter if you’d like.
With IRA stationed at the branch, HDFC has gone that extra mile and has developed skills and intents for Alexa and Google Home as well. So, the next time you hurriedly look up the web for an IFSC code, remember you could just say “Alexa, Open HDFC bank” and EVA would do the job for you. You could get help blocking your credit card, account balances etc. At this stage, both EVA and IRA are equipped to speak in English and the bank plans to add more languages as and when they move on.
We had a chance to interact with Mr. Nitin Chugh, HDFC’s Country Head, Digital Banking about how they are planning to utilize these technologies and the plan for future. “We don’t intend to replace people with robots obviously but the idea is to create a difference in the customer’s mind – a novelty. While artificial intelligence and machine learning becoming the next big thing, HDFC will be a forerunner in adopting these technologies”
“Right now, EVA and IRA handle generic queries but soon we plan to develop intents for transaction enabled features as well. We will deploy it in all touch points thereby adding value to our customers”
My 2 cents
Digital voice assistants have been doing the rounds in Banking in the western countries – with Bank of America and Capital one employing assistants to handle queries and transactions. In India- HDFC’s is a good first step. Will IRA be a game changer for the bank? At this stage -maybe not. It sure is a novelty right now for it isn’t doing things that an employee can’t do. With respect to EVA, it is a welcome addition to the tasks I can ask Alexa to do. What remains of concern to me is:
- Are people in India comfortable to think of transactions through EVA? Talking about money matters even inside a house is still taboo.
- The voice of the bank NEEDS to be empathetic – it is banking we are talking about – the moment you bring in transactions and card thefts- how is the voice going to respond?
- How proactive is good proactive? Sure, banks would suggest financial improvements – what is that thin line that would separate being proactive and being nosy?
We need to wait and watch. Either way, good move HDFC.
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