Is Virtual Reality A Game Changer For Retail Banking?

We know that the banking industry is going through one of the most revolutionary periods in the last 300 years with the phenomenal rise in customers switching to mobile banking.  Figures recently released by the British Banking Association show internet banking logins fell by 100,000 to 4.3 million per day in 2015 down from 4.4 million in 2014. Meanwhile mobile device apps were used 11 million times a day in 2015, up from 7 million a day in 2014. But to be honest the switch from online to mobile is only a fleeting cameo in the bigger picture of customers shunning high-street branches because their ability to self-serve through contact centre and online has evolved sufficiently to give customers fast and easy access to the information and services they need.

Today you can now access your bank whenever you want with the click of a button and an imprint of your thumb which means that’s the end of the mobile evolution right? Wrong. Only last month British Banks were told that they also needed to offer the same services on mobile devices that can be found in the high-street branch and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has set a deadline in 2018 for Banks to make this happen.  The CMA, following its two-year probe into how competitive bank accounts actually are, is committed to forcing banks to let customers have access to their entire finance portfolio including loans, overdrafts, mortgages and every day banking.

A single app to manage all your finances is a tantalising prospect but it won’t be easy.  The Banks are bound to push back on the changes, citing the increase in risk of fraudulent activity.  Quite right too if you recently saw Fintech Finance’s episode on the Dark Web you’ll know how easy it can be to obtain fraudulent documents which could be used to open a bank account.  However, if we put that to one side for a moment and think how life would be with a single app for all personal financial matters it makes me think this could be the tipping point that completely kills the traditional high-street branch.

I bank like most people using a mix of online and mobile, calling or using web-chat when something goes wrong (usually me forgetting my password) or to query a transaction (usually an impulse buy, made so easy with touch-payment technology that I soon forget). But despite this I whimsically visit my branch if I happen to be passing.   There is something novel about waiting in line, using the pens chained to the desk, and seeing somewhere branded with the latest posters and pop up stands that makes me not want to lose the reality of my local bank.

Up to July there had been 650 branch closures this year, then Brexit happened and more closures were announced by Lloyds Banking Group soon followed by another U-turn on Williams & Glynn’s long-awaited return to the high-street so more and more branches are at risk.

If we consider for a moment that PWC research indicates that more than 50% of the world’s largest economies will be Millennials by 2021, it isn’t difficult to take a leap forward and visualise a banking industry that no longer seeks to represent itself on the high street. 

How then, will I get my nostalgic fix and how will customers feel part of a bank if they can no longer visit? Virtual Reality could be the answer. If you read ‘’Pokemon Go: a New Reality for Customer Experience?’’ you’ll know where I’m going with this and it really isn’t as bonkers as it sounds.

To set up a VR for your bank, follow these 5 simple steps:

  1. Create a virtual Branch that is connected to a secure, Customer Contact Environment or Centre of Excellence, supported by Virtual Assistant technology that already exists
  2. Customers get sent a pair of Virtual Reality glasses
  3. Enable thumbprint ID verification for simple transactions
  4. Enable retina ID verification for more complex/valuable scenarios (you’ll be facing your mobile screen already!)
  5. Customers visit the VR branch whenever they want or need support for more complex scenarios to and therefore still feel some sense of loyalty  to their preferred bank

Will banks differentiate themselves by the quality of their VR headsets and their VR branch? Would you choose a bank because they offered you a VR branch? Could a VR branch experience be better than a traditional visit? Could opportunities for generating revenue, through loans and extended financial services, become synonymous with VR banking just as they once were with the local branch and laterally financial services telemarketing?

While interest rates remain so low and the scope for savings products and loans is suppressed, this might just be the right time to grab the moment and prepare for a future that will undoubtedly be different to today’s personal banking infrastructure.

What do you think? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Oculus Rift

Photo by Global Panorama licensed under Creative Commons.

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