Meet Mitsubishi UFJ’s Latest Worker: A Robot Called NAO

Meet the latest employee of Japan’s biggest bank: a multilingual robot called NAO.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. unveiled the 58-centimeter (23-inch) humanoid on Monday to improve services for customers in Japan and become the first bank in the world to use robots at branches, it said.

NAO can read emotions and speak 19 languages, the bank said in a presentation. It’s still being tested and will start working at one or two locations in Tokyo around April on a trial basis, the lender said. The robot, developed by Paris-based Aldebaran Robotics SA, a unit of SoftBank Corp., will greet customers and ask them what services they need.

Mitsubishi UFJ’s move coincides with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ambition to achieve a “robot revolution” as part of his growth strategy for a nation that’s facing a shrinking workforce and declining population. Financial firms worldwide are paying attention to technology and the country’s lenders need to keep up with developments, Japanese Bankers Association Chairman Nobuyuki Hirano said in January.

“Robots can supplement services by performing tasks that our human workers can’t, such as 24-hour banking and multilingual communication,” said Takuma Nomoto, chief manager of information technology initiatives at Mitsubishi UFJ’s main lending arm. “NAO is cute and friendly and I believe our customers will like it,” he said at today’s briefing in Tokyo.

Japanese people like to experience the face-to-face services available at physical branches, Nomoto said.

“Hello and welcome,” NAO said in a demonstration to an English-speaking customer. “I can tell you about money exchange, ATMs, opening a bank account, or overseas remittance. Which one would you like?”

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