Aeon Financial Service to deploy at least 30 Pepper robots to man credit card counters

Maria Nikolova

The humanoid robot, known for its emotional intelligence, will interact with customers, explain the various procedures and help them complete the process.

Artificial intelligence (AI) solutions are getting closer to customers of financial services companies every day. Aeon Financial Service Co Ltd (TYO:8570) has just provided us with an example of how robots may help with the credit card application procedures.

According to a report in Japan’s Nikkei, Aeon will re-assign much of the staff that currently work at the credit card counters, as their place will be taken by the Pepper humanoid robot.

Aeon plans to deploy 30 or more Pepper robots in the short term, with the machines to work at desks at Aeon Bank branches and Aeon Mall-operated shopping centers. The Pepper robot will interact with up to three customers at a time, explain the procedures for entering information, and help them complete the process.

In addition, the Watson AI system will provide answers to about 700-800 simple questions concerning credit cards. Aeon Financial intends to install 100 terminals linked with the AI system over the next three years.

The move reiterates the trend of robots replacing human staff in various roles in financial services companies. Japan’s Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance announced early this year it would make 34 staff members redundant over the deployment of IBM’s Watson AI solution. The company explained back then that the move will increase productivity while markedly cutting costs.

The use of automated solutions by financial companies has shown it has a dark side, however. In late February and early March this year, Russian banks faced a flood of complaints from customers whose accounts were blocked following checks for AML compliance conducted by automated systems. The bulk of these complaints concerned Sberbank, one of the main proponents of AI use amid Russian financial companies.

At its recently recently held Annual Shareholder Meeting, the bank showed a “Kuka Hand” – a robotic hand for sorting and counting money. One such robot, according to Stanislav Kuznetsov, Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board of Sberbank, may replace six human beings. The solution will be gradually deployed across Sberbank’s regional offices in 2017.

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