New breed of bankers, no lunch break needed

We have convenience stores without cashiers, and now banks are to dispense with traditional staff. Consumers are flooding to experience how China's first unmanned bank looks like.

We have convenience stores without cashiers, and now it seems banks are the latest business to dispense with traditional staff.

The concept of a bank without tellers was so intriguing that when Jiang Zhongquan, a postgraduate at the Nanjing Forestry University, came to Shanghai last week to visit his girl friend, he couldn’t resist the chance to see China’s first-ever unmanned bank.

It is the Jiujiang Road sub-branch of China Construction Bank, where customers are served by robots, not humans.

A genial robotic woman at the front of the branch is the lobby manager. She welcomes customers, finds out what they want to do and helps them get a queue ticket.

Those entering the bank need to scan an identification card or China Construction bankcard to gain admission. On their next time at the bank, they need only show their face to a scanning machine at the entrance.

Jiang said the most interesting feature of the bank was the use of virtual reality to find home rentals. He told Shanghai Daily that he usually looks for rentals via agencies, which is rather time-consuming and not always in tune with his expectations.

“With the virtual reality equipment in the branch, I know exactly how a flat looks and what kinds of facilities it has,” Jiang said, “I need only check out those that really impress me, instead of wasting my time looking at others.”

He said he also found it “practical and convenient” to withdraw or deposit cash using facial recognition technology at the automatic teller machines.

It’s a simple matter of linking a banking card with a mobile phone number and recording your face. The machines do the rest.

New breed of bankers, no lunch break needed

Any problems in the outlet? Just contact one of the patrol robots programmed to deal with any circumstance that may arise.

Jiang’s conclusion?

“It was really novel and fun,” he said, after talking with the robots. “They tell me almost everything I need to know about the bank’s services.”

For Yuan Yunke, Jiang’s girlfriend and a first-year postgraduate at the Economics School of Shanghai University, first impressions were not so favorable.

She said she is concerned that graduates like her, majoring in economics or finance, may never find jobs in the future.

Jiang tried to jolly her up by noting that bank personnel in the future will be liberated from drudge routine work and can be deployed to more creative jobs.

Xie Yong, a local resident in his 40s, said he felt a bit confused after visiting the unmanned branch.

“The younger generation prefers to do transactions via mobile banking applications, while many senior citizens may find high-tech banking difficult to master,” he said. “I don’t quite understand why the bank needs such an outlet here. It may not attract much traffic in the long term.”

For now, the novelty of the new outlet is attracting customers of all ages.

Guo Lanying, a 63-year-old Jilin Province lawyer on a business trip in Shanghai, said she found the facilities at the branch interesting and helpful. She told Shanghai Daily that she hopes to see more such outlets in other cities in China.

Unlike online banking, clients at the branch get receipts showing their transactions. She said that was reassuring.

"After all, regulations on online banking services aren’t comprehensive yet in China,” she noted. “We consumers want to protect ourselves.”

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