Nordea Leans on Virtual Employees as AI Looks to Permeate Banking Realm

What's not to like about an employee performing tasks 80% faster with a 100% reduction in errors?

The future may be closer than many think, especially at Nordic banking group Nordea, as the lender prepares for its inaugural round of robotic employees. The development represents the first of the ‘virtual employees’ that the group will use to satisfy a number of repetitive tasks, part of an ongoing agenda to introduce smarter, AI-based colleagues in the foreseeable future.

The prospect of virtual employees could be for the banking industry as robotics were for the automotive industry, ultimately displacing tens of thousands of jobs in the United States and Europe. With the specter of technology always on the rise, the introduction of intelligent, robotic workers, could facilitate the displacement of traditional banking branch jobs, already an industry that was seen as vulnerable and in decline.

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Across the UK and Europe, lenders have already been slashing their branch jobs as labor costs continue to rise, creating unnecessary costs and burdens at a time when the banking industry is moving to a more digitized future. At Nordea, this development could represent a watershed moment for the banking industry as a whole, if this becomes part of a broader trend.

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The decision to rely on robotic labor is not confined to Nordea alone and could be reaching a point where it becomes an industry norm. For now, Nordea is taking a different, less pessimistic approach, heralding virtual employees as a beneficial construct to its operations, thereby reducing the burdens of simple repetitive tasks. This perspective was reiterated by Nordea’s Group Head of Robotics Strategy and Innovation, Mattias Fras.

Mattias Fras

According to Fras, virtual employees can give their human counterparts more time to focus on delivering great customer experience and performing more creative and complex tasks. Still, the prospect of free labor, albeit virtual, performing a task 80 percent faster with a 100 percent reduction in errors cannot bode well for the robots’ inefficient human counterparts.

“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,” explained Fras.

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