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Extended Reality and the Metaverse Are Driving Financial Services to a New Realm of Possibility

By Samantha Barnesinternational banker

In October 2021, Bank of America (BofA) announced that 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 available to 50,000 employees, allowing them to practice a number of tasks of varying difficulty and simulate customer interactions in 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 combined real and virtual environments generated by computer technology. These environments include virtual reality (VR), a computer-simulated technology in which users are fully 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 and thereby “augment” our existing reality rather than create a new one; and mixed reality (MR), which allows the user to interact with the real and virtual worlds.

As for BofA, it has partnered with workplace training startup Strivr to provide this virtual reality-based training solution. “At Bank of America, our commitment to being a great place to work for our teammates fuels our focus on innovation,” said John Jordan, Head of Academy at Bank of America. “Virtual reality is very effective in helping teammates acquire 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.”

Indeed, XR is poised to play a hugely disruptive role across the financial services spectrum, with banks around the world now realizing the vast potential for growth and improved service delivery offered by XR. simulated environments, not just on the client side, but across the organization. Arguably XR’s most effective application will be in trading, allowing market professionals countless new ways to interact with data and access many more charting screens and useful information. than is possible in the real world. For example, D6 VR is a new project developed by former Morgan Stanley analyst Andy Maggio that radically transforms the way traders interact with data, primarily using 3D visualization tools.

“I think virtual reality is going to be the most transformative technology in our lives,” Maggio told CNBC in August 2021. “The resolution is double what it was five years ago, the hardware is changing very quickly , it’s lighter and easier to use,” he said. And Lyron Bentovim, CEO of D6 VR’s parent company, Glimpse Group, believes virtual reality is the future of trading. “You are limited,” Bentovim added in reference to the half-dozen screens traders can max out in the physical world, whereas with virtual reality that number can be greatly expanded with the ability to visualize data on multiple dimensions. . “I can see a trader observing multiple trends and then immersing themselves in the data without being restricted by physical boundaries.”

At BNP Paribas, virtual reality-based services are designed to “improve and streamline the customer journey” and are already in use in several of the French bank’s most successful business areas. For example, it launched a virtual reality-based application that allows customers to view their bank transaction records and review the various stages of a real estate purchase entirely within a virtual reality environment. In addition, in partnership with the French start-ups Vectuel and RF Studio, the bank’s real estate division has developed the POD, a “teleportation” capsule that allows prospective buyers to virtually see the interior of different properties and offers totally immersive vision in three dimensions (3D) and 360 degree environment. And BNP’s Mobile Protect VR tool, created by the insurance arm of BNP Paribas in the UK, is designed to educate customers about 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, i.e. the environment that allows users to exist and interact. in virtual 3D spaces. Estimated by several leading analysts as a huge $8 trillion opportunity, the metaverse offers immense leeway for industries, including financial services, to radically transform their businesses.

JPMorgan Chase is among the metaverse’s most enthusiastic proponents. The largest lender in the United States announced in February that it was the first bank to arrive in the metaverse, opening its Onyx lounge, referring to the bank’s suite of Ethereum-based products, in Decentraland, a platform 3D virtual reality form with tens of thousands of virtual land plots, each of which is an NFT (non-fungible token).

The bank also released a report detailing how it intends to deliver all of its current services in this virtual world, including having a “robust and flexible financial ecosystem” that allows users to connect between the physical and virtual worlds seamlessly. . “We believe that the existing virtual gaming landscape (each virtual world with its own population, GDP, in-game currency and digital assets) has parallel elements to 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 presence, can play a role. major role in the Metaverse.”

In Asia, meanwhile, KB Kookmin Bank has also entered the metaverse with some strength. The major South Korean bank has teamed up with VR content developer Sharebox to create a virtual bank branch that customers can access while wearing a head-mounted VR device. The branch will be used to train employees and educate young adults about finance. Kookmin and Sharebox have also developed the KB Metaverse VR Branch Testbed, which will enable the bank to perform virtual banking services and transactions, such as remittances, as well as provide one-to-one consultations between customer avatars and employees.

According to the bank’s vice president of technology, Jinsoo Yoon, such measures must be taken to keep pace with technological advancements. “The goal is to preemptively respond to financial changes in the coming metaverse era and internalize new financial services experiences and technology capabilities,” Yoon said in November 2021.

And with a whole host of other banking projects now exploring the potential of XR and the metaverse, there seems to be no limit to what can be achieved through simulated environments. “The way a brand remains relevant will need to evolve, and banks will need to find new ways to build trust,” Accenture recently warned. “As consumers build spaces in metaverse worlds, banks shouldn’t expect to simply move in and monetize. Instead, they should work to proactively build community.

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