One of the things I love about my research is talking to organizations about how technology will change the way they do things in the future, and then working with my team to create technology to prove concepts. We think about the direction technology is going in, and what that means for organizations right now.
In financial services, one of the most pressing issues is financial literacy. Financial literacy helps boost the economy by making employees more productive and making it less daunting to consider starting your own business. It also helps people make informed choices in their everyday lives when it comes to saving, investing, borrowing, spending and managing their income.
According to the CBI, 67% of adults in the UK are assessed as financially literate (the UK ranks 15 out of the 29 OECD countries for financial literacy).
Banks have a role in developing these life skills for their customers. And technology has a role, too.
Some banks are doing really interesting things to teach people about money management. There’s a bank in Hungary, my home country, which uses an app to show children the basics of managing money. It doesn’t use real money to do this, but a series of games teaches children the basics of investing, saving and spending virtual money.
It is a really useful tool, and not just for children. Apps like this stop people being afraid of money, and help them understand things that affect all of us, like inflation or higher interest rates. It helps navigate financial risk. Most people learn about money by spending the real thing. But technology can help people plan before they spend real money. Some banks are introducing tools to use predictive technology to visualize potential returns on investments over a period of time, changing the environment to show, for example, the impact on savings of changing interest rates.
Once you’ve used gamification to teach the basics of finances, you might move up a level to teach people about investments or savings schemes. Visualization helps people see the state of their money far better than a spreadsheet or linear bank statement.
A mobile application is a great approach to provide such services nowadays, however if you want to take it a step further, you could introduce VR or AR to help customers plan different scenarios. It’s easier to see big documents and charts in a virtual environment where you can swipe through different options, compare returns from different investment types, or see live predictions based on variable data inputs. You can do that with a real person from the bank talking you through these options, but without the infrastructure cost of using a bank branch.
From the bank’s point of view, you could make quicker lending decisions if you help people to visualize, side by side, different options on a mortgage or a loan, for example.
Of course, people don’t make serious investment decisions based on AI or a visualization tool alone. If you’re about to buy a house, you probably want to speak to a real person. But technology could be a first step, to equip you with the information you need to talk to an advisor. It helps with the research. Personally, I like talking to a chatbot or AI to get basic information before I speak to a decision maker.
There are other interesting applications for VR and AR, too. A classic feature banks are starting to use is visualizing locations so you can see, for example, which petrol station nearby has an ATM.
Or logging in to a virtual bank portal, but instead of opening a new page to transfer money, you can open multiple windows in the AR/VR environment, see all your balances in one place, and drag and drop money between accounts.
This is all about improving the user experience. And everything tells us that user experience is moving towards VR and AR. Right now, most people have a smart TV, but tomorrow, most people will have AR/VR glasses at home as well.
The technology is getting better and more accessible every day, and banks are starting to plan for it. The only limiting factor is imagination.