Will virtual and augmented reality change the world of banking?

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Is your next bank manager likely to be a hologram? Adam Scott, experience director at Chelsea Apps, thinks not, even though the physical bank might be dying. It will be VR and AR that will change the dynamics of customer experience in banking.

The smartphone transformed the financial transaction forever. BNP Paribas is forecasting that 726bn payments will be digital by 2020. A parallel rise in online banking has meant the closure of 1,700 high-street stores between June 2016 and June 2017. The message is loud and clear: the physical bank is dead.

New banks such as mBank in Poland let customers meet with representatives via Skype, approving loans in just 30 seconds. Voice technology is also transforming the way that visually-impaired people use banks, with UK banks such as Vanquis leading the way. And the continued rise of challenger banks, each with high levels of digital focus, is changing the world of banking dramatically.

Pioneering tech at play

The question now is whether the banking sector will incorporate the most advanced technologies into what they offer.

Virtual or Augmented Reality (VR and AR) are two such technologies. Recent reports say 73% of Generation Z are interested in using VR, and Bank of America is forecasting 250-300million VR users by the early 2020s.

Digital transformation and VR

Ten years ago, telephone banking meant talking to someone in a call centre. Now all the features you need to manage you and your businesses’ finances are there in your pocket through your smartphone. We’ve pioneered this at Chelsea Apps Factory with beautiful mobile app design, build and development for the likes of Vanquis and Starling Bank. Given the radical change within the banking industry, the question is: how different will things be in ten years?

Online banking has already changed our lives, offering a personalised experience and letting you bank from anywhere – but if there’s a downside, it’s the lack of the human touch. VR has the ability to offer the best of both worlds: customers can visit a highly realistic virtual branch without sacrificing the convenience of online banking. This is not a hypothetical gimmick - Italian bank Widiba already offers this service. Virtual branches also benefit those in remote areas, whose banking experience can now be identical to urban customers. The biggest upside of all, though, is huge savings for banks who won’t have to fork out huge sums to maintain thousands of physical branches.

Data visualisation

The visual cortex responds more to data presented in an immersive way, and this can facilitate greater financial understanding for consumers. American bank MoneyLion has introduced some AR glamour to the world of online banking with a service called Grow Your Stack, where you can ‘see the entirety of your bank balance laid out before you in one majestic stack of cash.’

Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Halifax offer an AR service called ‘home finder’, where you can view data of houses for sale as you pass them on the street. Similarly, Axis Bank allows users to see the location of the nearest ATM superimposed on the footage from their smartphone camera. This technology can empower consumers with financial data in a highly appealing form.

VR also has the potential to transform the world of trading. Swissquote has launched an application that enables 360-degree trading walls. Similarly, Citi uses Microsoft HoloLens, allowing its traders to analyse data in a single display. It is much easier to understand the relative volumes of various markets if you’re looking at 3D spheres compared to a 2D graph.

These visualisation benefits stretch far beyond banking employees. Fidelity Investment Lab has developed a new product called ‘Stock City’ that presents the value of investments as different buildings in a city. The user can walk around and view data skyscrapers, gaining a deeper understanding of key information than if they were just looking at an ordinary screen.

Educational value

Banks will be able to enhance their UX if they embrace VR technologies as an educational tool. Wells Fargo capitalised this with the ‘Together Experience’ where users walk around a virtual maze in a game that also displays interesting company.

VR can also liven up the world of interviews, with Lloyds Bank saying that it “allows us to create all kinds of scenarios and puzzles that we’d never be able to recreate in an ordinary interview process”.

What place is there for AR/VR?

While Bank of America predicts that the VR headset will come to be the defining technology of Generation Z, it’s important not to let utopian thinking lead to overly grand predictions about the future.

VR branches are an interesting concept, however it’s unlikely to displace mobile apps in the same way that apps transformed banking from physical branches. There are huge possibilities for improving consumer financial literacy (something that frustratingly isn’t in the school curriculum) and banks will be able to offer VR training programmes with really intuitive data visualisation. Banks will also roll out the amount of AR features within their apps, embedding financial information in the day-to-day experiences of their customers.

Though it’s unlikely that your next bank manager will be a hologram, VR and AR both have a great deal of potential.

This article originally appeared in The Drum Network Finance Supplement. For more information on how to get involved, please contact tehmeena.latif@thedrum.com

Adam Scott, experience director, Chelsea Apps

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