Biometrics and conversational AI power China’s Tencent-backed online-only bank

Virtual robots powered by facial recognition, speech recognition, natural language processing and other artificial intelligence technologies are providing VIP customer service for customers of China’s first web-only bank, a consultant of WeBank tells CNBC.

The Tencent-backed WeBank was launched in 2015 to provide small business loans, addressing a market which was underserved due to a perception among banks that it is higher risk. AI consultant Yang Qiang told CNBC at the East Tech West conference in Guangzhou that WeBank applies AI to the risk analysis process, allowing it to deliver decisions in microseconds, compared to traditional assessments by human experts, which could take more than a week.

Yang says that automated services and humans should work side by side. He notes that on the customer service side, WeBank robots use biometrics and advanced speech technology to handle roughly 98 percent of about a hundred thousand requests each day.

Tencent has also applied facial recognition technology to video gaming, a business in which it is the top-grossing publisher in the world.

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