Peer over the horizon, and you may find bankers and their customers routinely doing business in the metaverse—the immersive 3D digital environment—or frictionlessly transferring funds in real time with some form of digital currency.
Those are just two of the near-term digital innovations that a trio of banking experts foresee transforming the financial services industry.
“As banks think about digital banking, the mobile app is where most banks are focused today,” says Lamont Black, associate professor of finance in the Driehaus College of Business at DePaul University in Chicago. “But we have to go beyond that to these more immersive experiences, and the metaverse is one example of that.”
Black, a former economist for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, says the metaverse has the potential to drive richer, more productive customer conversations than the current model of people staring at each other on a flat screen. “That may be three to five years in the future, but there are certainly many banks and credit unions exploring the metaverse right now so that they can position themselves for these changes.”
Black, whose recent research has focused on digital assets, points to an acceleration in the move toward digitalizing money.
“Cryptocurrency, which emerged with bitcoin in 2008, introduced a paradigm shift in the way we think about digital banking,” he says. “Bitcoin introduced the idea of peer-to-peer electronic cash to transfer value from one person to another using a network—in this case a blockchain—rather than going through a financial intermediary.”
Design visionary Jean-Pierre Lacroix, president of branding and design firm Shikatani Lacroix in Toronto, shares Black’s belief that the metaverse holds great promise for financial services organizations.
“Banks are already dabbling in the metaverse,” Lacroix says. “They need to view it as a channel, much like mobile or online. But they need to approach this channel differently than they would do mobile or online as these virtual communities emerge.”