Should banks and savings banks open branches in the Metaverse?

The Metaverse is the current trend on the Internet. Is this just new hype or is there actually high earning potential behind it? And what about financial service providers? Should they open virtual branches?

Welcome to our bank’s metaverse.
© Tom Fishburne

Digital realities have long offered great opportunities. Augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed and extended reality should help connect physical and digital experiences. The future of the internet is supposed to reside in the metaverse. In Web 3.0, the real world must be supplemented – some believe even replaced – by a virtual world. Incidentally, the term was coined over 30 years ago by science fiction author Neal Stephenson.

Idealists expect the metaverse to be a vast, digitized community space where users can freely connect with brands and each other in ways that allow for self-expression and joy. Businesses are more likely to expect a well-maintained, ad-laden News Feed from platforms like Facebook, where there are new opportunities to make money.

Metavers: Megatrend or Marketing Hype?

There is no doubt: the connection between the real world and the digital world offers fascinating possibilities. These go far beyond the existing virtual landscapes, which are already a reality, especially in many computer games.

But even if Mark Zuckerberg wanted it that way, there won’t be a single metaverse. It’s not just Facebook (or Meta, as the social media giant has been called) that dreams of gigantic prospects, especially to make money. Many technology companies are working on their own Internet landscapes and these will hardly be compatible with each other. So, instead of just one, there will be multiple metaverses.

Marketing experts are (too) euphoric

As marketing teams think about how to experience the metaverse, there is already a risk of marketing myopia. Within companies, it is easy to imagine that consumers are just asking to connect “freely” to their brand. In truth, people think much less about brands and don’t wait to deal with them all the time.

The metaverse is neither more nor less than the Internet itself. The web is enhanced and updated to deliver consistent 3D content, spatially curated information and experiences, and real-time synchronous communication.

Bank branches in the metaverse?

Financial institutions are also already planning for the Metaverse – at least internationally. Some South Korean institutes have already launched their own platforms. And JPMorgan recently announced the opening of a Metaverse lounge, as well as a discussion paper on Metaverse opportunities. As a result, “the possibilities of interactive digital worlds seem limitless”.

Many institutes are thinking about how sales and service capabilities that have built up over decades in the physical world (really?) can be transferred to the new virtual world. The goal is to position yourself as a big winner when customers show up there. Plus, there’s the fear of missing out on an important trend and losing to digital anonymous or big tech.

More than ten years ago, the opening of bank branches on Facebook was euphoric. There are few left. However, the current Metaverse hype will lead to investing billions of dollars in a lot of nonsense: virtual properties, digital avatars and other virtual odds and ends.

Communities also exist in real life

But we must not forget: the real users of the Internet are the people. You cannot do business with the widely represented bots. And in the metaverse too, there are people behind the avatars. Like social networks today, the metaverse in the future will lead some users using different pseudonyms to dive into certain digital communities. However, this parallel digital world cannot be the basis for banking transactions – regardless of compliance regulations.

Whether you’re building your own metaworld or injecting a brand experience into an existing platform, it’s important to keep in mind the real role of brand in people’s lives. After all, brands need to meet people where they are.

If banks and savings banks want to reach people in certain communities, a virtual world is not necessary. This reminds us of the time when regional institutes, but also large banks, still played a role in local communities. So maybe try to breathe new life into (still) existing agencies instead of investing in virtual agencies that end up emptying out?

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