ATB Financial introduces ‘Pepper’ the robot to help customers with banking

Pepper the robot will go into service at ATB Financial’s Chinook Centre branch starting in May. John Himpe / News Talk 770

Meet the newest member of the team at ATB Financial. She’s four feet tall, hails from Japan, and her name is Pepper. Only, Pepper is not a person – she’s a robot.

“What Pepper does is introduce us to the technology of voice recognition, visual recognition, artificial intelligence,” said ATB Financial president and CEO Dave Mowat. “I don’t think any of us are suggesting we’re all going to be served by robots. What she embodies is the ability to interact in ways that are really efficient.”

Pepper is a technology developed by Softbank Robotics, which has deployed its robots in a number of sectors across Japan.

“Verticals we do really well in are customer service businesses, retail, financial institutions, hospitality as a digital concierge,” said Softbank America global products manager Bill Lott. “Pepper is that friendly, unintimidating end point you can ask questions to and not be embarrassed.”

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One of the earliest implementations of Pepper was at Nescafe stores, where the robot would help customers choose a coffee machine best suited for their needs. European supermarket chain Carrefour is also now using the robots to assist their shoppers.

“What we’re going to do is find ways for Pepper to do things that are better than you ever expected,” said Mowat of the bank’s plans for the technology.

At first, Pepper is expected to have an in-branch presence where clients will be able to get basic information from her about services and unsecured information like mortgage rates. In time, Pepper could be connected to the bank’s secure systems to allow her to assist customers in transactions.

“All the mediums where she can be better to you, we’re going to try and insert her,” said Mowat.

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Lott said in addition to the physical Pepper robot, the technology which powers her has an ability to be extended into other forms of artificial intelligence.

“Developers can create applications for her now where the only limitation is their imagination.”

While robotics and automation have been credited for costing employees their jobs in some sectors, Mowat said the implementation of Pepper is not intended to replace people with machines.

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“Our human beings can spend more time on higher value stuff with our customers,” Mowat said.

Pepper will go into service at ATB Financial’s Chinook Centre branch starting in May.

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