[AVIS D’EXPERT] While banks are cutting back on their network of physical branches, they are taking a close interest in the proximity they could develop via metaverses. Decryption with our expert Guillaume Almeras, founder of the monitoring and advice site Score Advisor.
A few months ago, Facebook’s announcement of its transition to the metaverse brought the topic into vogue. In the aftermath and as usual, huge financial forecasts appeared, justifying the interest that we are able to give to new virtual worlds. Do we really need to quote numbers? Projections like this always turn out to be completely wrong! Let’s just say that, in a few years, we are promised to spend more and more time with a helmet screwed in front of our eyes, this representing a considerable financial windfall.
We are told much less, however, what we can do well. Apart from devoting a good part of our time to play, what new actions will we be able to perform in the metaverse? As far as they are concerned, a large number of banks are now asking themselves this question and, expectantly, most are following developments with attention and a wait-and-see attitude, not imagining that anything decisive can really happen in this area. for at least five to ten years.
Others consider that this attitude does not correspond to a good approach to the phenomenon. For them, new virtual worlds are appearing and it is a question of marking their mark there as of now. To plant at least one flag in the most popular metaverses and to acquire spaces there which, well located, will cost more and more.
This is enough the attitude of some American financial institutions, among which JP Morgan was the first to open an establishment, to publish a framework file on the metaverse and to define a strategy, for the moment focused on financial support. games. Other establishments of very modest size, such as Quontic, have also opened spaces, for the moment quite empty, insofar as it still seems technically unthinkable to them to offer banking services there. Fidelity has done the same and, in the meantime, offers a playful educational journey on Decentraland that… is nothing new (Wells Fargo offered the same thing on Second Life more than ten years ago).
An Axa agency in the metaverse
In Asia, things are moving faster and Korean banks are currently opening real branches in the metaverse. Agencies in which you send your avatar and which, for Kookmin Bank for example, simply complete your physical network.
Why suggest anything else, indeed? The question is inevitable and, in Thailand, the Siam Commercial Bank sees things quite differently. For her, the metaverse is a space for encounters and interaction above all and beyond games. It therefore intends to offer spaces for sharing and discussion, in particular for its corporate clients, as well as events.
HSBC follows the same line of conduct and intends to offer on The Sandbox experiences related in particular to sports and e-sports. The examples that are beginning to appear in Europe thus seem quite close to what can be seen in Asia. In France, an Axa general agent, for example, opened a virtual agency on Gather that reproduces his physical agency.
At this stage, it is perhaps the Caixa Bank which provides the most suggestive example of a presence in Metavers (Decentraland). A few years ago, La Caixa launched its Imagin digital bank, focused on young people (not necessarily customers) and their lifestyles. A platform that integrates, in addition to banking, music, games, new technologies and sustainable development, as well as virtual – or real – events in an ImaginCafé open in Barcelona. But this will be virtually transposed into an ImaginLand. For its inauguration, a real rock concert will be broadcast there virtually.
A proximity relay in the virtual world
La Caixa therefore does not wonder what new features it should offer on the metaverse. It does not approach the latter in purely technological terms but as a set of new universes in which it must assert its approach as well and in the same way as in the real world. The reflection thus bears, much more broadly, on the role and the place of the banks henceforth in the public space.
The orientation towards the bank of uses that La Caixa is developing stems from a questioning of the evolution of agencies and the decline in attendance that they have been recording for years, without the demand for direct human contact falling within the clientele. How to create henceforth, in the real as well as virtual world, a certain frequency of contact? Privileged relationships of trust and interest? What will tomorrow’s real and virtual meeting, gathering and sharing places be? Around what functions and what activities will they be built: sport? Work? Easy access to new areas of interest? For La Caixa, the banks must simply strive to maintain their role as real and now virtual local relays.
Therefore, if originally, in the cities, many bank branches were created around the market place, today it is a question of identifying and contributing to animate, in the new virtual worlds, the districts the most frequented.