Imagine going to your local bank branch and getting “human touch” service from something that isn’t human at all.

Believe it or not, this is exactly what’s happening at some Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi branches. A robot named Nao greets customers and directs them to the services they need. Nao can speak multiple languages and uses sensors to interpret customers’ requests.

The Workforce Reimagined

Nao’s existence is fascinating in isolation. Even more importantly, though, it is a compelling signal of a larger trend in the banking industry—one that leaders cannot ignore.

Accenture’s 2015 North America Consumer Digital Banking Survey revealed that while the bank branch is still relevant, it is not what it once was to customers. As mobile and online channels continue to mature, banks must repurpose the role of the bank branch in customers’ lives.

This reinvention of the branch naturally entails a reinvention of the workforce. In fact, this notion of the “Workforce Reimagined” is one of five digital banking trends explored in the Accenture Technology Vision for Banking 2015.

The report explains that emerging digital technologies are making human-machine teams a reality. Seventy-five percent of the nearly 250 banking executives that Accenture surveyed as part of this Technology Vision think that successful banks will support collaboration between humans and machines. What’s more, 84 percent acknowledge that they will need to train their machines as much as their people in the near future.

Where Humans and Machines Meet

This intersection of humans and machines in the retail banking industry is not about completely replacing humans with cognitive computing and intelligent machines. Now that would be a storyline straight out of science fiction.

The opportunity is for banks to discover how digital technologies can effectively extend and realign the workforce. Think of it like this. With Nao triaging customers to the right places in the bank branch, employees can be available exactly where demand is to provide needed services.

As machines take on transactional tasks, employees are freed to build better customer relationships. It’s about using the strengths of humans and machines together to deliver superior customer experiences. Banks are already exploring the possibilities here—from robotics and sensors to crowdsourcing and software automation.

Robots at the Teller Window

Only time will tell what the complete picture of tomorrow’s banking workforce will look like. One thing is certain. No matter how the workforce profile changes, banks cannot introduce enabling digital technologies without the proper employee training. Shepherding employees through the process of change—just as Nao guides customers in the bank branch—will be essential to success.

Learn more about the top five digital technology trends in the banking industry.

Learn more about Accenture’s latest consumer digital banking survey.

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