By Shubhangi Shah
Banking is already on our fingertips via mobile phones. The next leap of technology promises to bring a human touch to the digital experience with virtual interactions in the metaverse. Like what Union Bank of India did on Friday by launching its metaverse virtual lounge, through which customers can visit a bank without actually visiting the bank. As the bank’s chief technology officer (CTO) Rajiv Mishra told FE, “You choose a digital avatar for yourself, enter the bank lounge and access the available banking services. Currently, we are giving informative services through which customers can seek details on social security services, loans and other banking products,” adding that the service can be availed on both desktop and through virtual reality headsets.
With this, the bank has joined international and foreign banks such as JP Morgan Chase, HSBC and South Korea’s Kookmin Bank, which have already made strides into the metaverse.
Digital banking is set to become bigger, which will not only allow for remote access to services, but add a personal touch, as Rajesh Mirjankar, CEO of Kiyaverse, India’s first metaverse banking platform, explained. Launched by digital service provider firm Kiya.ai last month, Kiyaverse has witnessed keen interest from private and public sector banks and NBFCs (non-banking financial companies).
Pointing out what sets this new technology apart from the existing one, like mobile banking, Mirjankar said, “While digital banking is functionally interdependent and inclusive, it is all too often seen as being emotionally detached. The metaverse allows banks to use cutting-edge technology with a human touch that will significantly deepen and personalise customer interaction. It is an opportunity to restore the dialogues lost in digital channels.”
Sonali Kulkarni, lead, financial services at Accenture India, feels the same.
“Besides its potential regarding product and service innovation in payments, investment, insurance and loans, the metaverse is an opportunity for banks to foster deeper customer connects,” she said, adding, “It can help restore the in-person dialogues that are currently missing in digital channels and help create memorable experiences for the next generation of banking customers, many of whom may never need to step into a bank branch in their lives.”
Both Kiyaverse and Union Bank’s metaverse work on similar technological lines involving virtual reality and digital avatars. Right now, the Union Bank is “not going into the next phase where transactions and other services can be provided,” said the bank’s CTO, explaining that there are security and regulatory aspects that need to be taken care of.
Mirjankar also admits that the banking industry is still at a ‘nascent’ stage in the metaverse and that banks must consider adopting immersive technologies “for the future of business”.
Similarly, Kulkarni said as the world is moving ahead, “banks in India need to start evaluating their technological readiness for the metaverse, develop prototypes to help their employees understand its potential, and finally get ready to scale these prototypes rapidly.”
Emphasising ‘trust’, she terms it ‘paramount’ to the adoption of new experiences and that the metaverse must be developed with responsibility at the core – concerning ownership of data, security, inclusion and diversity, risk management, and other parameters.
Speaking about the need for a talented and skilled workforce, she said, “Just as banks need to cultivate digital, data, and cloud skills in their workforce to enable digital-native business models, they will need to hire talent or build skills for a future driven by the metaverse.” These include 3D artists, game designers, platform experts, and professionals with expertise in multiple blockchains.
Meanwhile, on being the earlier ones in India to launch into the metaverse, Union Bank’s CTO said other banks will be coming up with the same soon. “It is just a matter of days. Today, it was us who did it, tomorrow you will find others,” he said.