May 30, 2023
Consumers have more options than ever when it comes to banking. With the advancement of fintech, blockchain, and artificial intelligence (AI) as well as the popularity of digital-only banks and digital payments, traditional financial institutions are feeling the pressure to stay relevant.
Mobile banking capabilities aren’t enough. Some commercial banks are now entering the metaverse to engage younger consumers, while others in the world of finance are experimenting with new immersive banking, investment, and wealth management services. Read how seven well-known financial institutions are all leveraging XR:
Applications: Soft skills training
Way back in 2015, the tax preparation firm used the Oculus Rift to test potential design changes to its retail offices with an eye to reinventing the client tax experience, or how clients interact with H&R Block employees. Essentially, the company was trialing VR for market research and found it got better feedback compared to traditional research methods.
More recently in 2021, H&R Block worked with Mursion to implement VR training for new call center employees to improve interpersonal skills like active listening and conflict resolution.
The tax preparation process is an anxiety-ridden one for which H&R Block hires 5,000 new agents every year. These new employees are expected to handle complex and emotionally-charged calls soon after onboarding. By role playing with avatars, they’re able to experience realistic customer support scenarios and learn how to deal and empathize with difficult callers without risking real client relationships.
Among the results, H&R Block reported faster time to competency, greater confidence, improved customer satisfaction, and shorter customer handling times. Interestingly, late-season hires trained in VR performed just as well as agents hired at the start of tax season.
Bank of America
Applications: Soft skills training
Bank of America’s successful VR training program began in 2019 with a small 400-person pilot within its internal learning and development division known as The Academy. For the pilot, participants were guided through a variety of scenarios with clients and co-workers in a virtual financial center, allowing them to practice navigating difficult conversations, listening with empathy, etc. –- skills traditionally taught via instructor or eLearning.
In 2021, Bank of America officially launched VR training in 4,300 financial centers nationwide to teach a range of soft skills to approximately 50,000 employees. As its library of VR modules grows, real-time analytics help to identify skills gaps and provide targeted training where needed. The bank is also investing in AI-powered conversation simulators to “enhance role-playing opportunities.”
Results: Even more than faster learning, Bank of America sought to provide more engaging and memorable training content with VR. The bank achieved both - accelerated training and increased retention - along with greater employee confidence, higher employee and customer satisfaction, and buzz for one of the nation’s largest financial institutions.
Applications: New financial products/services and marketing
In 2021 at the height of the pandemic, J.P. Morgan decided to turn its Asset Management’s Guide to Markets into a mobile AR experience. Begun in 2004 and delivered quarterly since 2007 by Chief Global Strategist Dr. David Kelly, the guide is meant to inform client decision making in challenging markets. For the AR experience, users scan a QR code to launch a “holographic version” of Kelly right in front of them.
Last year, in addition to hiring someone to head XR research and publishing a paper on business opportunities in the metaverse, J.P. Morgan opened its Onyx Lounge in Decentraland. Some features of the two-floor virtual lounge include a roaming tiger and a wall showcasing the bank’s blockchain activities.
For those asking why, Onyx Lounge is just a first step. J.P. Morgan believes the metaverse is a $1 trillion opportunity and has bigger plans to become a key financial player in the meta-economy. The investment banking giant hopes to create a suite of financial services for the metaverse, from payments and trading to foreign exchange, credit, and even mortgages.
Applications: Customer engagement and education
TD Bank first flirted with VR in 2019 with an immersive welcome kit sent to new customers to educate them about the self-services available with online banking and the bank’s mobile app. Using a smartphone-compatible VR headset included in the kit (likely something along the lines of Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR), users scanned a QR code to play games with information about mobile deposit, online bill pay, etc. followed by a training video.
Today, TD Bank continues to explore ways to implement XR into products and to interact with its growing digital customer base, especially when it comes to financial literacy. A recent internal hackathon produced AR experiences for explaining products like first-time home buying and debit cards. The national bank also sees potential for XR in its physical stores to, for example, inform customers waiting in line to deposit a check about the mobile check deposit feature of its app.
Applications: Brand awareness and training
In 2015, Wells Fargo tried to build brand awareness by bringing Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2 headsets to local events with which users could play a game and share the experience on social media. By 2018, the company was working with Oculus to enable customers to interact with bank tellers from anywhere in the world.
A gamified AR experience projected a human teller in a virtual space, bringing ease and convenience to transactions along with some fun and “easy-to-understand” representations of financial data. The bonus: Showing consumers that there’s more to Wells Fargo, a bank with over 170 years of history, than just financial services.
In 2019, Wells Fargo turned to VR for HR management training. Using the 3D face tracking capabilities of the iPhone X and a full-body motion capture suit, Groove Jones was able to virtually recreate real-life customer scenarios from bank branches and call centers for the Oculus Go. Each of the four VR training modules - a fee reversal in a call center, credential reset in a branch office, helping a customer open a savings account, and monitoring their account balances - included a test at the end for managers to evaluate how team members did or should have performed.
Applications: Data visualization
Citibank, the company that brought you the ATM, was one of the first banks to consider how traders might use Microsoft HoloLens in their day-to-day jobs. In 2016, Citi released a proof of concept for an AR stock trading app, essentially a holographic workstation.
In the POC, a trader puts on a HoloLens headset, using hand gestures and voice commands to view, manipulate, and share interactive 3D visualizations of real-time data for more intuitive analysis of abstract financial information. The voice component would ‘come in’ to finalize investments and trades, the ultimate goal being to 1) make better decisions based upon complex data sets and 2) increase the efficiency of financial trades.
Citi’s virtual trading concept generated a lot of buzz at the time. Though never implemented, Citi is undoubtedly looking at how it could apply XR to wealth management and other services. As for the metaverse, Citi predicts that the metaverse economy will be as big as $13 trillion by 2030 with up to 5 billion users. Getting there, however, as Citi writes in a 2022 report, “will require sizable infrastructure investment.”
Applications: Data visualization, customer service, training, and onboarding
Around 2015, Fidelity created StockCity for Oculus Rift, a VR app that showed your stock portfolio as a virtual metropolis à la SimCity. Each building in the city represented a stock, the height of the building corresponding to price. The sun shined when stock markets opened and set when they closed, and it rained whenever markets were down. Other ideas included using traffic to represent trading activity and birds to indicate social media chatter. (Fidelity would later create an HTC Vive app to track retirement plans.)
In 2017, Fidelity’s fintech innovation incubator Fidelity Labs worked with Strivr to test VR for empathy training among call center employees, in particular millennial employees who are typically unmarried, don’t have a mortgage, etc.
Wearing a Google Daydream headset, the trainee is transported into the caller’s home where he/she sees, for instance, a stack of medical bills. Knowing about and empathizing with the customer’s situation, the trainee can then provide more tailored support. Results of the pilot included a 10% increase in call customer satisfaction and further plans to use VR in soft skills training programs.
The following year, Fidelity Labs teamed up with Amazon on another stock portfolio management app: An experimental VR financial advisor named Cora who displays stock charts on a wall in her virtual office in response to user requests.
In 2020, Fidelity piloted VR onboarding for 140+ employees, enabling new employees across teams and locations to get to know each other, play games, and even practice their “elevator pitches” in a virtual space. Finally this year, Fidelity held two recruiting events in the metaverse, for which VR headset-wearing candidates attended presentations as legless avatars in a Fidelity-branded virtual space. According to a representative, events like these allow Fidelity to showcase its technology and meet people with the skills they need “where they already are (online).”
Image source: Fidelity Investments