Through Samantha BarnesInternational Banker
lIn October 2021, Bank of America (BofA) announced it would be the first financial services company to launch virtual reality training in approximately 4,300 financial centers across the country. The training will be accessible to 50,000 employees, allowing them to practice a number of tasks of varying difficulty and simulate customer interactions within a virtual environment.
The program is just one of many recent implementations by the banking industry of extended reality (XR), a technology that encompasses all real and virtual combined environments generated by computer technology. These environments include virtual reality (VR), a computer-simulated technology in which users are completely immersed in the virtual environment, usually using headsets; augmented reality (AR), which provides an environment in which virtual objects can be superimposed on the real world, thus “magnifying” our existing reality rather than creating a new one; and mixed reality (MR), which enables user interaction with both real and virtual worlds.
As for BofA, it partnered with workplace training start-up, Strivr, to deliver this VR-based training solution. “At Bank of America, our commitment to providing a great place to work for our teammates fuels our focus on innovation,” said John Jordan, head of The Academy at Bank of America. “VR is highly effective at helping teammates develop and retain new skills, and it’s one of the many ways we use technology to support internal mobility and provide the best learning opportunities.”
XR will indeed play a hugely disruptive role across the spectrum of financial services, with banks around the world now recognizing the huge potential for growth and service improvements that simulated environments provide, not just on the customer side. , but throughout the organization. The most effective application of XR will undoubtedly be trading, giving market professionals countless new ways to interact with data and access many more screens of charts and useful information than is possible in the real world. For example, D6 VR is a new project developed by Andy Maggio, a former Morgan Stanley analyst, that is drastically changing the way traders interact with data, mainly using 3D visualization tools.
“I believe VR will be the most transformative technology in our lives,” Maggio explained to CNBC in August 2021. “The resolution is double what it was five years ago, the hardware is moving forward very quickly, it’s lighter and easier to use,” he said. And Lyron Bentovim, chief executive officer of D6 VR’s parent company, Glimpse Group, believes VR is the future of commerce. “You are limited,” Bentovim added, referring to the roughly six screens that traders in the physical world can use at most, while with VR, this number can be expanded significantly, along with the ability to visualize data across multiple dimensions. “I see a trader observe multiple trends and then immerse himself in the data without being constrained by physical limits.”
At BNP Paribas, meanwhile, VR-based services are being designed to “enhance and streamline the customer journey” and are already being used within some of the French bank’s most successful business lines. For example, it has launched a VR-based app that allows customers to consult their banking transaction data and fully view the different steps of a real estate purchase in a virtual reality environment. In addition, in collaboration with French start-ups Vectuel and RF Studio, the bank’s real estate division has developed the POD, a “teleportation” capsule that allows potential buyers to virtually look inside different properties and offers a fully immersive three-dimensional (3D view). ) and 360-degree environment. And BNP’s Mobile Protect VR tool, created by the insurance division of BNP Paribas United Kingdom, is designed to make customers aware of the benefits of insuring their mobile devices.
But lately, much of the buzz around XR solutions has been generated by the central role they will play in the metaverse, that is, the environment that allows users to exist and interact in 3D virtual spaces. Estimated by several leading analysts to be a staggering $8 trillion opportunity, the metaverse offers tremendous opportunities for industries, including financial services, to dramatically transform their businesses.
JPMorgan Chase is one of the most enthusiastic proponents of the metaverse. The United States’ largest lender announced in February that it was the first bank to arrive in the metaverse and open its Onyx Lounge, citing the bank’s range of Ethereum-based products, in Decentraland, a 3D virtual reality platform featuring tens of thousands of virtual plots, each of which is an NFT (non-fungible token).
The bank has also released a report detailing how it plans to deliver all of its current services in this virtual world, notably by having a “robust and flexible financial ecosystem” that allows users to seamlessly connect between the physical and virtual world. world. “We believe that the existing virtual gaming landscape (each virtual world with its own population, GDP, in-game currencies and digital assets) has elements that parallel the existing global economy,” the report explains. “This is where our longstanding core competencies in cross-border payments, foreign exchange, financial asset creation, trading and custody, in addition to our large-scale consumer position, can play an important role in the metaverse.”
In the meantime, KB Kookmin Bank has also entered the metaverse with some vigor in Asia. South Korea’s bank manager is working with VR content developer Sharebox to create a virtual bank branch that customers can access by wearing a VR device on their head. The site will be used to train employees and educate young people about finance. Kookmin and Sharebox have also developed the KB Metaverse VR Branch Testbed, which allows the bank to perform virtual banking services and transactions, such as wire transfers, and provide one-on-one consultations between customer and employee avatars.
According to Jinsoo Yoon, the bank’s vice president of technology, such steps must be taken to keep pace with technological advancements. “The goal is to pre-emptively anticipate financial changes in the coming metaverse era and internalize new experiments in financial services and technology capabilities,” Yoon said in November 2021.
And with a slew of other banking projects now exploring the potential of XR and the metaverse, there seems to be no limit to what can be accomplished through simulated environments. “How a brand remains relevant will have to evolve, and banks will have to find new ways to build trust,” Accenture warned recently. “As consumers build spaces in metaverse worlds, banks shouldn’t expect to just move in and make money. Instead, they should be working on proactively building a community.”