The next time you visit your bank (which might be happening quite often nowadays courtesy the Modi government's surprise demonetisation drive) be ready to greet a not so familiar face among the bank regulars. Kumbakonam-based City Union Bank recently debuted Lakshmi, India's very first banking robot.

It took more than six months of hard work to develop Lakshmi, an artificial intelligence powered robot that is the country's first on-site bank helper. The robot is capable of answering intelligently on more than 125 day-to-day bank related subjects.

Whether you want to know about the current interest rates on home loans or even know your current account balance, Lakshmi can tell you all. Apart from has also been programmed to connect to the core banking solution. For example, if a bank customer inquiries about his/her transaction history or bank account details, the robot will flash the answer to these on its display. Don't worry, sensitive financial information is displayed discreetly on the robot's screen and not voiced like in the case of generic questions.

Responding to a national newspaper on what prompted the bank to introduce Lakshmi, N. Kamakodi, City Union Bank's Managing Director and CEO had said that a recent study had revealed that bank staffers end up spending a majority of their time in answering some 120 basic questions. About 95% of these questions asked by customers were repetitive in nature. Hence, the Lakshmi was thought and developed. Now, the bank just has to feed the inputs and Lakshmi answering all these repetitive basic queries.

According to Mr. Kamakodi, seeing the kind of response that Lakshmi has been getting, the bank is in the midst of installing about 25-30 such robots in its different branches.

Lakshmi, who currently converses only in English, uses gestures, turns around and engages with the customers in almost a very life-like manner. Unlike other robots in the market, her speech isn't that formal, but more casual and relaxed. Further, since it is AI powered, it constantly learns from the interactions with the customers.

In the near future, City Union aims to programme the humanoid to be able to talk to customers in their native language Tamil. They're are also looking at enabling it to service the visually challenged bank customers.

All around the world, very few banks have employed robots at their branches to help both their staffers and customers. With Lakshmi, City Union wants to bring a whole new experience to India.

Apart from City Union, Top private lender HDFC Bank, is also experimenting with robots to answer customer queries. The humanoid is currently being tested at its innovation lab. Earlier in the year, we had reported how banks in India were warming up to the thought of using artificial intelligence in their services, and now it seems Lakshmi is a forward step in that very direction.

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