Pepper, SoftBank Corp.'s humanoid robot, greeted customers at a Taiwan bank and a life insurer on Thursday, one of the first countries outside Japan to use the shiny machine in a front-line role with clients.

The robot was handed an employee ID card at a First Commercial Bank branch in Taipei and joined staff in an exercise routine before meeting the public.

"I think this is pretty good for customers . . . to kill time or to have more fun interacting with Pepper," said bank customer Chang Cheng-kang.

First Commercial, a unit of First Financial Holding Co. which plans to roll out 20 Peppers island-wide, said the robots would mainly interact with customers.

Pepper also started work on Thursday for Cathay Life Insurance, an arm of Cathay Financial Holding Co., which plans to deploy 10 robots.

Pepper is a key plank in SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son's vision of future technology centered on the internet of things, a network of devices, vehicles and building sensors that collect and exchange data.

The robot, which costs ¥198,000 ($1,900), is being used as a waiter, salesman and customer service representatives in about 500 companies in Japan, including Nestle, Mizuho Bank and Nissan.

"Taiwan is the first country outside of Japan in which Pepper will start to provide direct service for clients," said Jeff Lin, a director with Perobot Co. Ltd., which oversees the sale and maintenance of the robots in Taiwan.