The robots are coming, so says Nordea, which has already 'hired' a host of 'virtual employees' to take on repetitive tasks and is planning to introduce smarter, AI-based colleagues in the near future.
In recent months, chatter about robots and AI has reached feverpitch, with the technology's potential to put millions of people out of work becoming a hotly debated subject.
Nordea's group head of robotics strategy and innovation, Mattias Fras, says that, far from being a threat to human staffers, robots are currently helping to ease the burden of simple repetitive tasks.
Echoing the claims of a data scientist working on IBM's Watson, Fras, in a blog, says robots give "employees more time to focus on delivering great customer experience and performing more creative and complex tasks".
'Virtual colleagues' are already at work in several areas of the business. Among them is Liv, at life and pensions, who has brought 80% faster process lead times, a 100% reduction in errors, and helped boost compliance.
But Nordea is already looking beyond these rule-based robotics initiatives and towards cognitive robots with artificial intelligence.
New research from Accenture shows that more than three quarters of bankers believe that AI will enable simpler user interfaces that will help banks create a more human-like customer experience.
In addition, four out of five think that AI will revolutionize the way banks gather information and interact with customers, and three-quarters believe that within three years, banks will deploy AI as their primary method for interacting with customers.
Says Fras: "The key to embracing all the opportunities presented by robotics is simple - people. We are trained to conduct development and operations based on certain policies, procedures and processes.
"And, changing this is challenging and takes guts. It’s mainly about a change of mindset. We’re on this journey now, and we need to have our people on board, otherwise we won’t be successful."