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Anyone who thought that online banking and the disappearance of physical customer service desks meant that the automation of the financial sector was more or less over and done with, may want to prepare themselves for the next stage. The robot banker is coming – that is the conclusion drawn by Bart Raaijmakers, who conducted research on the subject for the Fontys study program Finance, Tax & Advice and the lectureship De Ondernemende Regio (The Entrepreneurial Region). But, he also notes, things are moving a bit slower in the Netherlands than they are elsewhere.

The digitalization of society – further accelerated by the Corona pandemic – naturally affects the banking sector as well. Speech recognition and artificial intelligence (AI) are making their entrance. One of the consequences is the advent of the “robot banker,” a technique used to automate business processes via software. Robot bankers can quickly come to the aid of customers through the bank’s website or app. The main advantage is that a client can be helped immediately, as robot bankers are capable of helping thousands of clients all at once. Clients who still require a more personal contact with the bank can then also be helped faster, as there are fewer clients waiting in the queue.

The latest generation of robot bankers utilizes artificial intelligence and machine learning. Take, for example, the application of Customer Due Dilligence and Anti-money Laundering or “money laundering” detection robots. These robots excel in processes where there is a lot of repetition. The Netherlands is now leading the way in digital financial services, partly due to better service and partly when it comes to keeping banking services safe and accessible. Nevertheless, the development of the robot banker is lagging behind here. The main obstacles are:

  • The steep costs and high energy consumption;
  • the small market, which makes our country less interesting for foreign entrepreneurs;
  • strict privacy regulations that make it difficult to create large data sets for the AI robot;
  • the Dutch culture, which places great value on privacy, making Dutch users less likely to want to switch.

Changes within the banking industry

For private bankers (who focus on wealthy private individuals), these changes mean that banking products will become increasingly more standardized in the future, which should make it easier to advise the right products to each client. Since the client knows how to find more and more information on their own, private bankers will need to change their attitude. They must be able to act more like a coach for the client by carefully finding out what the client’s wishes are, according to Bart Raaijmakers.

Raaijmakers also points out that these changes – which result in more efficient operational practices – will lead to a decline in job security within the banking world. Yet this also has consequences for education: for example, the financial study programs of Fontys will also have to address the implications of this for the curriculum. Follow-up research will shed light on this.

Also interesting: Dutch MP Kees Verhoeven: ‘Digitalization is a mega-topic, but it doesn’t get enough political attention’