HSBC brings a robot to a Toronto branch

The bank is deploying Pepper to reduce wait times, educate clients and improve their in-branch experience.
HSBC Bank Canada-HSBC Bank Canada welcomes Pepper to the team

HSBC is entering the world of robotics, bringing SoftBank Robotics’ customer service robot (named Pepper) to one of its locations.

Located at an HSBC branch in Toronto’s Financial District, Pepper is meant to help educate customers and reduce wait times for those that do their banking in-branch. It will do this by greeting customers and directing them to the proper employee or area of the branch, based on their needs. It can also inform customers about different HSBC products and promotions they may be interested in, as well as guide them through how to use the bank’s mobile app and self-service options.

On the lighter side, HSBC is also encouraging customers to take advantage of Pepper’s more “fun” capabilities, such as dancing or telling jokes, and post a selfie of themselves with the robot with the hashtag “#MeetPepper.”

In an announcement, HSBC said it is the first major Canadian bank to utilize Pepper, though Alberta regional bank ATB previously piloted using Pepper in some of its branches in 2017.

On the brand front, HSBC has been attempting to dispel its image as a global, distant bank and position itself as more relevant to local customers in Canada. Campaigns contributing to that goal have put the focus on its staff and advisors, be it through their ability to tap into global insights or physically positioning them in public places in urban centres. Larry Tomei, EVP and head of retail banking and wealth management at HSBC Canada, said Pepper is not meant to replace any of its employees, but adds that there is an opportunity in “enhancing [HSBC's] already strong client and employee experience.”

HSBC previously tested Pepper at its New York flagship branch in June, where it has since seen a 60% increase in new customer acquisitions.

HSBC, like other banks in Canada, has also been investing in its digital channels and capabilities to answer clients need and improve their experience. It now allows clients to apply for accounts, credit cards and small business financing online, and also launched Wealth Compass, its online investing and advice platform, last year. In May, it also opened a global AI lab in Toronto, on top of another lab in the U.K.