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The making of AI bankers at South Korean bank

Local bank synthesizes facial features of its human staff to create faces of its virtual staff

Employee IDs of the two AI bankers (NH NongHyup Bank)
Employee IDs of the two AI bankers (NH NongHyup Bank)

Virtual staff members powered by artificial intelligence have increasingly become a fixture at South Korea’s retail banks.

NH NongHyup Bank, one of Korea’s top five commercial banks, has added human elements to its so-called “AI bankers” to connect with Korean customers.

According to NH NongHyup Bank, names of the two virtual staff members -- male staff Jeong Eden and female staff Lee RohWoon -- were given by staff and executives of the banks through open discussion.

For instance, Lee Roh-woon (“이로운”) is a homonym with a word meaning advantageous and beneficial. Jeong Eden (“정이든”), is a homonym for a word used to express a feeling of closeness or attachment.

The names not only represent how their personalities will be toward customers, but were created to get rid of the cold and distant image of AI staff, a bank official said.

The AI bankers look like typical Koreans in their 20s and 30s. The bank combined the faces of dozens of staff at its Digital Banking division and to create the AI staff’s faces.

The bank said Friday that they have been given official positions at the research and development center under the digital transformation strategy division, after being hired last year.

“Based on the machine learning process, we will make an advanced system for AI bankers to learn the ways to give more sophisticated services to the customers,” the official said.

The virtual staff members will engage with customers on an AI-backed screen in the bank by helping them to quickly find services and products they need, NH NongHyup Bank said.

Also, the bank said the AI bankers would be deployed to its banking activity centers where customers can learn and experience AI-powered banking services.

“We plan to find other roles for the two AI bankers to support the new banking businesses,” the official said.

Launched in October, the virtual staff members were hired as official employees of NH NongHyup Bank. This is the first time a bank has officially recognized an AI machine as a staff member.

By Byun Hye-jin (hyejin2@heraldcorp.com)
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