The Reality of Virtual Reality; A Mindtrip for Banks

Last week a friend told me an interesting story about how she felt going to her local bank.

She explained that on a cold March day, she had to walk to the bank and wait in line to speak to a bank representative.  Seems the new accounts she wanted to open meant her having to show up in person.  She had to explain to a private banker, in a public place,  that she needed a joint account with her ex-husband for the kids, a new checking account with her fiancé’ for the wedding – and a pre-paid credit card so she could rein in her teenager’s emerging expensive tastes.  She felt like she was baring her soul to a banker she never met before.  She was definitely missing the ‘private’ in private banking.  Given the vulnerability she felt – she didn’t even begin to discuss her real financial goals or concerns – like saving with her new spouse, or how to manage established investments individually.

What if she had been able to put on a headset – in the real privacy of her office or home – and, through the use of virtual reality- ask all the questions she really had – without the fear of being overheard or judged?  What if she had been able to leisurely explore product and service options and interact with a quality advisor when and where she wanted?  What if, at the same time, she was quite welcome and able to compare products and pricings across financial services companies without feeling embarrassed about doing so?  What if she was able to tap and choose various short-term savings or investment options and see how they could affect her finances long-term based on a wealth of data?  Welcome to the future world of virtual reality in financial services.

Virtual reality gets real – From gaming to banking?

Strong investment in Virtual Reality (VR) from the world’s largest tech groups suggest that VR is on the forefront of becoming the next frontier in immersive technology.  Oculus VR, a virtual reality technology company, has only recently released the Oculus Rift Development Kit 2. This ground-breaking VR headset allows users to empathize with the virtual world through an immersive experience. Although, the Development Kit 2 is intended for developers only, there has been massive interest in VR computer-simulated environments across industries.

For financial services Virtual Reality could…

  • transform the way you learn about new financial products and services

  • get you the best financial advisor at all times

  • let you compare between financial institutions in a blink of an eye

  • enable you to make use of big data for investment decisions

…and this is only scratching the surface of what will be possible.

 

An immersive experience 

VR technology enables a fully immersive experience, one in which we can modify the environment by using physical gestures and verbal commands. It will allow us to create structures that suit our needs. It will also be a substitute for discovering and exploring reality that we would not have access to otherwise. Ultimately, it will be able to alter our understanding of the world we live in and challenge the very concept of reality.

While enabling a radically new experience, full immersion into a virtual reality will ultimately depend on the quality of the underlying technology. Imagine you walking into your local bank – virtually. What would you expect visually? Would it be good enough to get the same immersive experience that you get from playing a video game on your PlayStation 4? Probably no.  In fact, it is highly likely that we will only trust this space with our personal finances if we can fully identify and relate to our virtual self’s.

An intuitive touch and feel for data

Many of us do not know how to interpret financial figures we see in the news or in our banks’ offerings. In fact, human interaction with financial data has been abstract and theoretical. Virtual reality technology will enable an intuitive way to interact with data through multidimensional visualization and verbal command.

What is the catch? Immersion alone will not make a computer-simulated experience a real one. If virtual reality wants to have an impact on our lives it must allow users to interact with their environments. Only through a combination of immersion and interaction can we integrate virtual reality into our lives, and let it become part of our real world.

The matrix of banking

By mirroring reality, virtual reality can explore our most intimate thoughts and those of others. Users will be able to connect with each other and talk about the things that matter most to them.   Could VR become a superior way to interact with customers and understand their most personal financial fears and goals, in a completely private and protective setting? For those willing to embrace potential virtual opportunities it may be possible to better connect and engage with customers in a different world. It could allow a better understanding of individual needs and may even enable them to develop unique and truly intimate relationships with customers they may never have connected with in the past.  The reality of virtual reality may just be something that financial services industry cannot afford to ignore.