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The New Face of Money: How Banks are Leveraging Metaverse for Good Banks have long banked on two phenomena- if they can get the attention of customers when they are young, they can hold on to them for life and the customer-executive relation in a traditional physical space. But with time, the sector has aced spotting which change to adapt and which to avoid. Safe to say, they have been open to the adoption of Metaverse and virtual realities in their systems.

By Paromita Gupta

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Technology has always held the power of shaping jobs, economies, industries, and lives. And the banking sector is not privy to it. History is evidence that those who leveraged technology as early adopters at the right time continued to play an active role rather than perish. The banking system of the world and India are strong believers in it. Banks have long banked on two phenomena- if they can get the attention of customers when they are young, they can hold on to them for life and the customer-executive relation in a traditional physical space. But with time, the sector has aced spotting which change to adapt and which to avoid. Safe to say, they have been open to the adoption of Metaverse and virtual realities in their systems.

One of the two technologies to have been in the public eye, Metaverse is a virtual reality supported by sub-technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, blockchain, cryptocurrency, NFTs, and digital twins.

THE NEED TO ADOPT METAVERSE

Indian youth is a growing base for Metaverse and its subsequent technologies. Banks know that they need to leverage the virtual environment to retain a digitallyinclined customer base. Financial institutions will also be extending their offerings to decentralized platforms and communities, giving them an opportunity to expand their customer base.

Blockchain and tokenomics have given rise to a new form of currency- cryptocurrency, which can be traded, invested, or transacted by holders. Having cryptocurrency also enables one to buy virtual assets such as NFTs and engage in virtual gaming. This form of currency does not have banks as an intermediary between users and banks, and this is a point of concern for them. According to Statista, the number of users is expected to amount to 328.70M by 2027 in India alone.

With the rise of fintech start-ups and banks launching their own super apps, the ageold practice of visiting a bank for the minutest of concerns has been on a decline. And with cryptocurrency entering the picture, banks have all the reasons to cater to young customers' digital requirements.

In February last year, JP Morgan Chase, the largest bank in the US, became the first in the sector to foray into Metaverse by opening a lounge in the Decentraland and also released a white paper decoding the space for its customers.

On the Indian front, the Union Bank of India bagged the first mover advantage when it opened a Metaverse virtual lounge and open banking sandbox environment in partnership with Tech Mahindra. "Bank wanted to target new age customers by recognizing the potential of the virtual world for customer engagement, financial education, and exploring new business avenues thus aiming to stay ahead in the digital landscape" the bank shared with Entrepreneur India. With Uni-Verse, Union Bank of India will let customers enter the lounge by choosing their Avatars where they can browse through various schemes and products.

Recently, Punjab National Bank too made its way into the Metaverse with its virtual branch- PNB Metaverse, powered by Kiya.ai. "Being in this new phase of the internet that evolves from a disparate collection of sites and apps into a persistent 3D environment, Banking cannot be oblivious to the evolving technologies aimed at better service and convenience to its customers. As such, Metaverse being a cutting-edge technology with a human touch and the virtual look and feel of Bank Branch could significantly deepen and personalize customer interaction for the Bank. PNB found it as an opportunity to restore the customer connect lost in digital channels and was propelled to launch PNB Metaverse for an enhanced digital experience to its Gen Z customers," shared Punjab National Bank (PNB) with us.

"We work with close to 600 banks today as clients and in various areas, whether it is core solutions, regulatory technology, or digital banking. So when we looked at the metaverse per se, and when we looked at the vision of how devices would be accessed, what we firmly believe is that for banks, the browser is where the customer is. So if that browser was to be now resident on a VR device or a headset, or if it was to be resident in IoT-based device somewhere, then the bank needs to extend its services there," shared Rajesh Mirjankar, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Kiya.ai, which launched India's first banking metaverse, 'Kiyaverse', for banks and non-banking finance companies (NBFCs).

"Banks keep on putting some part of their technology present into new technology. It will obviously come up as consumers will ask for it," shared a top executive from one of the world's largest banking and financial services institutions with us.

"The overall objective of a bank is to put across the message that they're available on the latest technology," Mirjankar adds. Furthermore, the future generation is bound to prefer virtual to physical environments to avail banking products and services.

"The response has been overwhelming, with the Bank's metaverse presence enhancing its brand image, facilitating immersive customer interactions, and fostering innovative financial solutions," Union Bank of India shared.

USE CASES

Virtual branches have been the most preferred initiative of banks. Deloitte notes ten clusters under the trend- virtual branch, immersive advisory, gamification, products and services, marketing and eminence, navigator, community building, training, and digital twin. Other potential services that can be leveraged by banks with Metaverse include fund withdrawals from virtual ATMs or branches into a virtual wallet, customer care services, appointments and consultations with advisor's avatar, house tour with a mortgage broker in real time, discussion and purchase of financial products, attend virtual events of the banks and seek help from virtual assistants.

FUTURE

Despite all the enthusiasm and optimism, Metaverse is growing and is still at its nascence stage. "As the Governance structure & guidelines are yet to be framed for extending Banking Services in Metaverse, other facilities have to be provided through Bank's physical branches only. Also, as we are living in the era of 'Phygital' world where technology is being used to bridge the digital world with physical world, a balance is being maintained between the virtual and physical banking. Going ahead, the opportunities and challenges in the adoption of Metaverse will determine Bank's course of action for cutting down on physical presence. Bank will continue to explore all the feasible opportunities in this regard as suitable," shared PNB.

Much like how every technology has concerns, so does this. Researchers and experts point out the high probability of risks such as data and privacy breaches, money laundering, and fraud associated with Metaverse. But nothing in the world is without its what-if.

Paromita Gupta

Features Writer with Entrepreneur India

Covering news and trends in AI and Metaverse segments. An avid book reader running her personal blog on the side. You may reach me at paromita@entrepreneurindia.com. 
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