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AI, 5G, and Cloud: Building Smart Branches for Banks

By Huang Qiuyuan and Kong Xiangyi, Senior Managers for Finance Industry Solutions, Huawei Enterprise BG

The next generation of smart bank branches will be scenario-based, lightweight, and mobile. Huawei’s “AI + 5G + cloud” platform will make more high-quality bank branch applications a reality, providing strong support for the construction of smart bank branches.

Development Trends of Smart Bank Branches

With the development of the Internet and Financial Technologies (FinTech), Internet finance, mobile banking services, and self-service have become increasingly popular. Indeed, most banking services can now be processed on mobile devices. Given this development, traditional bank branches are seeing a fall in customer traffic, with their customer acquisition ability similarly declining. Meanwhile, with the increasing availability of the Internet and smartphones making access ubiquitous, more personalized mobile financial services — offering a superior user experience — are emerging.

Though it may be tempting to conclude that this will lead to bank branches becoming obsolete, that is not the case. Instead, the development of new technologies — such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 5G — will empower bank outlets by allowing them to become intelligent. Bank branches will therefore still play an important role in the intelligent era, but they will be assigned new functions and have different objectives.

Despite the rapid development of mobile services, e-channels, and self-service, banking branches remain integral in high-value fields, from opening accounts to wealth management and consultancy, and private banking. Indeed, in these scenarios, customers typically prefer face-to-face communication.

Furthermore, branches remain particularly important for brand promotion, as well as delivering an optimal service experience. Only branches can provide an all-round customer experience, improving customer satisfaction and loyalty. Indeed, bank branches can connect online and offline interaction activities and promote online and offline service development.

Next generation smart bank branches will involve multiple intelligent, self-service, and remote video devices to provide promotion and training services — improving the customer experience yet reducing labor costs for banks.

Bank branches are evolving to become social and experience centers that are scenario-based. Going even further, they are integrating with other industries as trusted intermediary platforms that provide financial services.

These smart bank branches will also be lightweight. The limited physical space they will take up will be used effectively, and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) will be highly efficient. With this convergence of online and offline functions, a bank’s ability to gain new customers will surely improve.

A final, but important, key feature of smart branches will be mobility. 5G wireless connections will be used to provide stable and massive data services, achieving widespread banking services coverage.

AI + 5G + Cloud: A Brand New Offline Experience

Most bank branches in China have been intelligently reconstructed, with service personnel able to identify and categorize customers. More customers are now directed to smart equipment to handle services, while fewer customers are led to the counter. Meanwhile, service personnel are available to offer guidance to customers at any time they need. As well as shortening customer waiting times, online e-bank services also deliver a brand new experience.

Huawei believes that the application of new technologies such as AI, 5G, and cloud can enrich a bank’s existing network design, provide a full-journey network experience for customers, and optimize network management modes.

When a customer walks into an intelligent bank branch, service personnel are able to immediately identify the individual customer using a smart device, as an interactive large screen displays the financial products that the customer has browsed on their app. For offline financial management assessment or account checking services, an immersive experience can be offered through Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) glasses. Customers don’t need to go to a specific branch to handle complex business services; service personnel can contact HQ experts, who are ready to answer customer questions in real time. Elsewhere, the temperature, humidity, and even the lighting of the building can be automatically adjusted in accordance with crowd density and weather conditions.

When customers go to other cities and visit bank branches, their data will be synchronized nationwide. Different branches can continuously optimize the customer route design based on historical service analysis, delivering unique services to each customer. All of these services are enabled by new AI technologies.

Meanwhile, the ultra-high bandwidth of 5G, along with cloud computing, will further enhance the experience at bank branches.

Figure 1: How intelligent technology supports the redesign of branch services to improve the customer journey

Architecture of Huawei’s Smart Bank Branch Solution

Huawei’s smart branch solution provides a complete set of customer services for banks, inside and outside branches. Through collaboration and sharing, Huawei and partners work together to provide solutions for four banking scenarios: smart marketing, smart connection, smart management, and smart security protection.

Smart marketing: Huawei uses AI, big data, and cloud platforms to build a unified online and offline precision marketing platform. With full-stack AI capabilities, Huawei can provide intelligent customer services online and cooperate with partners to provide AI robots that guide customers in branches, greatly improving the customer experience. And while intelligent cameras accurately identify VIP bank customers on arrival, big data analytics of the precision marketing platform hosted on HUAWEI CLOUD implements personalized service recommendations and highly customized precision marketing. In addition, Huawei’s television set product — Huawei Vision — is used to implement precision marketing and ad pushes, efficiently identifying customer requirements. In terms of service handling at branches, AI automatic identification technologies such as Optical Character Recognition (OCR) speed up service handling and build a comprehensive smart marketing scenario.

Huawei has many successful practices in smart banking marketing. For example, in a smart branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) in Beijing, Huawei’s Atlas AI small cells provide functions such as VIP customer identification and movement track analysis, boosting the marketing capability of the branch.

Smart connections: With the development of smart branches and the application of multimedia devices, mobile devices, and High Definition (HD) video, high bandwidth capacity becomes essential. Quite simply, ensuring the network quality of branches is crucial. Huawei uses industry-leading 5G technology to provide large-bandwidth network coverage and uses Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) intelligent traffic steering technology to enable intelligent selection of private lines and Internet lines, ensuring maximal bandwidth for the key services of bank branches. Compared with traditional Wi-Fi networks, a Wi-Fi 6 network developed based on Huawei’s 5G technology significantly improves network bandwidth, coverage and stability — meeting the wireless requirements of multimedia devices such as tablets as well as HD videos. Huawei AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 provides an outstanding wireless experience for bank customers, helping to support online and offline converged service handling.

Huawei’s 5G and SD-WAN products have been successfully applied to the construction of 5G intelligent network points of China Construction Bank, providing customers with a vastly improved network experience.

Smart management: Compared with traditional branches, there is a huge amount of both data and IT devices in a smart branch, putting immense pressure on IT operations and management. Huawei’s FusionCube solution integrates a branch’s IT devices — such as servers, storage devices, and switches — providing functions such as plug-and-play, remote attendance, and edge-cloud synergy, meeting integrated IT device management requirements. Meanwhile, the Intelligent Operation Center (IOC) platform — jointly developed by Huawei and its partners — implements unified, centralized management of O&M of all branch devices at the bank’s HQ. The Internet of Things (IoT) asset management system that is deployed, based on Huawei Wi-Fi, provides full lifecycle management, from asset distribution and monitoring, to asset stocktaking and recycling.

Huawei is working with the Bank of China (Hong Kong) to test its IoT asset management system, with the intention of helping the bank build smart branches.

Smart security protection: Security protection is critical to the Financial Services Industry (FSI), and smart security protection is indispensable for branch construction. Based on years of experience in Smart City construction, Huawei is able to provide an end-to-end smart security protection solution for bank branches, and this solution is tailored to the characteristics of bank services. With advanced AI chips, open camera operating systems, and abundant algorithms, Huawei provides a full series of intelligent cameras and video cloud analysis platforms, to implement surveillance functions such as abnormal behavior analysis, mask identification, and detection of loitering, trailing, theft, accidents, and fires. Huawei’s solutions also offer internal control detection, such as heat maps inside a branch, monitoring when employees leave the building, and attendance and access control.

Huawei has accumulated a wealth of experience in intelligent security, which it applied when it helped China Post carry out the intelligent upgrade and reconstruction of its security protection system.

Figure 2: Huawei’s Smart Branch Solution enriches the customer journey

The Future Bank Branch: A One-Stop Financial Service Center

With rapid technological development, the transformation of traditional banks into digital, smart banks has become inevitable. Given this fact, to gain a solid foothold in the market — amid intense competition — commercial banks must seize the moment and tackle challenges head-on. As commercial banks transform themselves, they can offer efficient and convenient services to customers while achieving high-quality development for themselves.

In the future, competition among commercial banks will no longer be limited to business forms, customer groups, and products. Instead, it will focus on higher-level fields such as FinTech, 5G, AI, data management, and account security. With increasingly homogeneous competition, traditional banks must apply technologies such as AI and 5G to overcome technical obstacles, loopholes that create risks, and other issues that arise in smart transformation. Only through radical smartification of financial services, can banks continue to grow and embrace the future.

Huawei has long been committed to working with partners to build more user-friendly and automated branches for banks, providing high-tech experiences for bank customers. Huawei’s goal is to develop bank branches into one-stop financial service centers. Branches no longer merely provide traditional financial services. New application scenarios and devices — from AR shopping, simulated car finance, and intelligent customer service robots, to remote interactive entertainment, space capsule-style mobile financial services, and coffee banks — are emerging. Huawei’s “AI + 5G + cloud” platform will provide strong technical support to make highly automated and intelligent bank branches a reality.

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Issue 29 — Intelligent Finance Special

Thriving in a Mobile Future: Working Together Toward Smart Finance

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