Banks in the metaverse can’t lend you money yet, but they still want to sell the dream to you

to imagine

Photo: CaixaBank/imagin

Meta’s vision of the metaverse depicts a mixed reality that blends the physical and digital worlds, giving students new interactive learning environments or surgeons the ability to practice before they get their hands on a real patient.

But for now, the concept developed by Mark Zuckerberg consists of different platforms similar to those offering online multiplayer games or virtual worlds like Second Life (launched in 2003) – albeit with better computer graphics and crypto payments.

Kay Philippe, CEO of Linking Realities, a Catalan company specializing in avatars, disagrees. “For me, it’s an open space for social networking that somehow takes back the original idea of ​​the Internet,” he told ZDNet.

Philip notes that in 2021, $4.2 billion was spent on leather trade and the D2A (Direct to Avatar Economy) is expected to reach $1 trillion in the next decade. Citi’s March 2022 report backs up his statement: It could hit the metaverse economy $13 trillion by 2030totaling nearly five billion metaverse users.

Spanish companies such as Zara and Balenciaga in the fashion sector and Metrovacesa, in the real estate sector, have already taken the leap. Now, the country’s largest banks are also exploring the potential of virtual reality (VR) in bringing a more personalized experience to customers and developing new products. At least that’s what they say.

Banks and companies know that micropayments will be essential in this space of socialization, and that Cryptocurrencies will dominate And maybe they coexist with fiat money, so they want to be there. This was found by the Center for Economics and Social Research (FUNCAS) 47% bankers They believe that their customers will use virtual and augmented reality (AR) as a channel for financial transactions in 2030.

In February, major Spanish banks Banco Santander and BBVA debuted in the Decentraland metaverse via Metrovacesa. Both banks are shareholders of the real estate developer with 49.4% and 20.9%, respectively. The following month, imaginBank, the digital services and lifestyle platform powered by CaixaBank, launched its own virtual space within the Decentraland metaverse.

Imagine 1

Imagine imaginCafe, a Metaverse space based on a real-world co-working space in Barcelona.

Photo: CaixaBank/imagin

imaginLAND is a replica of imaginCafé, an imaginative co-working space in downtown Barcelona. The plot is built from 90,000 digital plots, each of which is a non-fungible token (NFT), meaning that it cannot be re-created. It offers not only financial services, but also digital lifestyle content, such as music, video games, tech products, and guidance on sustainability to attract GenZ customers, as well as integration with several social media platforms.

For David Urbano, Imagin’s chief marketing officer at CaixaBank, jumping into the metaverse was “a natural step to strengthening the relationship with customers and enriching Imagin’s digital offerings.”

Urbano is convinced that the metaverse will allow banks to maintain “the kind of touchpoints that new generations might require — perhaps by discussing financial planning with a human advisor via an avatar, without having to visit the branch.” This may bring new products in the future, but it doesn’t define what they might be. However, he acknowledges that payments will be one of the services most affected.

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BBVA echoes that sentiment. In early June, at the Southern Summit in Madrid, the bank presented its own virtual version, recreating its famous building La Vela (sail), located in the neighborhood of Las Tablas, Madrid, in Metavers. In this virtual building, clients are informed of their assets and can make decisions about their financial health. The bank is now looking for new features and use cases for its virtual branch through an ongoing hackathon. The teams will compete over the next three months, and the winner of the challenge will be announced in October 2022.

Edgar Martín-Blas, CEO of XR Projects at Virtual Voyagers, who participated in the BBVA session, understands that people are still confused about the metaverse. But he thinks it will be easier to understand in the future, and he thinks it will look a lot like Spielberg’s movie. Ready player one, technologically speaking. The other thing is whether that’s necessarily good: in the movie, people’s lives in the real world are awful.

Unfriendly user

Another problem facing the metaverse is that the hardware required to access any immersive world isn’t user friendly — not even for GenZ players, who already spend a significant amount of time in the metaverse, according to the Razorfish study.

Cai Felip believes that we will soon be using regular eyeglasses or even contact lenses with a variable level of opacity, to take advantage of the benefits of mixed reality. “We will gradually see new forms of metaverse being used. It will have a massive audience sooner than we think,” he insists.

As for now, banking services in the Metaverse region are limited. CaixaBank and Microsoft Signed a joint innovation agreement in June It aims to create new and innovative business environments in the metaverse, as well as promote the application of artificial intelligence (AI) to new financial solutions.

The new laboratory, located in Barcelona, ​​will work in coordination with Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Center, which is also located in the city, and will employ nearly a hundred software developers, data scientists and machine learning specialists.

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“You can’t brag that you’re in the metaverse when you’re not first remotely,” says Benjami Veloslada, co-founder of Menéame, a Spanish-language news site based on community engagement.

“In some banks, you still need to go to a branch to get signed PDFs for an operation. So how do you expect to do that in the metaverse?” says Veloslada. In fact, there is still work to be done, and in addition, digital products do not usually end the way the founders originally envisioned them, he adds.

Even if it’s still raw, the metaverse offers an innovative way to explore new horizons and advance banking – which may at least attract the younger, more tech-savvy generation of bank customers.

Carles Gumara, a technology expert at ACCIÓ, the Catalan government’s agency for business competitiveness, agrees that marketing is a big part of the metaverse equation at the moment, and banks are seizing the opportunity. This is not the first time that banks have tried to move to the virtual world as Gomara recalls the attempt of Spain’s Banesto Bank to open Entrepreneur Island On Second Life in 2009.

However, things have progressed drastically since then, and The emergence of Web3 It raises more questions about how banks can sit in a range It may be decentralized metaverse. In any case, Jomara points out, it’s normal to be skeptical about new things.

“It’s true that there’s a lot of hype around the metaverse right now, but that’s happened with all the new technologies. And that’s fine,” he says.

“After exaggeration and exploration, selection will come. The weaker branches will be pruned until the other branches are stronger.”