By Sean Devaney, Vice President Strategy for Banking and Financial Markets, CGI UK
The metaverse promises to change the way we live, work, and consume content and goods. If we step back for a moment, what exactly is the metaverse?
The metaverse is a digitally enabled world, where organisations and communities interact in real-time. It’s a persistent, collaborative environment where people can come together to learn, work, shop and share experiences.
Gartner predicts that the metaverse will begin to mature in around seven years, from 2029 onwards. For Gartner, the current emerging metaverse state leverages existing technologies to create metaverse experiences, while a mature metaverse is interoperable, enabling experiences in new virtual economies.
How can we harness the metaverse, building a pathway to value in the short term while ensuring benefits at scale as the concept matures?
In the short term, we’re seeing clients adopt several metaverse use cases which are enabled by existing technologies. These include:
- Training and collaboration environments for employee experience and knowledge sharing, enabled by digital collaboration tools
- Virtual healthcare for proactive remote monitoring and improved citizen outcomes, enabled by the internet of things (IoT) and digital twin
- Smart places for operational efficiency and positive net zero outcomes, enabled by a range of emerging technologies including IoT and Advanced Analytics
- Virtual bank branches where the look and feel of a traditional brick-and-mortar branch can be replicated in the metaverse alongside innovative services such as a cryptocurrency exchange or a portal to an overseas branch.
Business cases for these use cases are typically built around factors such as training adoption, reduced employee attrition and increased efficiency of people and assets. Alongside the business case, key outcome measures include improved citizen and employee experience.
Building longer-term pathways
Longer term, organisations should consider defining their ambition for the metaverse. Is it to attract new audiences and build communities, unlock new revenue streams, drive margin improvements, or simply add another channel of engagement? No matter what the hope is, it does need to align with an organisation’s strategy and transformation programme, as such building an associated outcome-driven roadmap that will help to track progress and benefits is therefore vital.
At CGI, the combination of our growth and the continuation of hybrid working prompted us to innovate around the process we use to greet new joiners. As an additional route to attract the best talent, we create an innovative, collaborative, and supportive place to work. Effective onboarding through advanced technology and approaches is just one of the ways we do this.
We, therefore, created a collaborative metaverse environment, known as the CGI Meta Hub, based on our London office at 20 Fenchurch Street. It successfully enables the onboarding of new members through several key scenarios including engaging new joiners with a tour, meeting leaders as part of the welcome session, signposting key information and policies and visiting pre-defined stalls and viewing relevant content. Enabling these scenarios is driven by user-driven video and presentations for content sharing, one-to-one, and one-to-many, spatial audio for presentations, Q&A and high-quality, true-to-life visuals for familiarisation with our office environment.
It is important to effectively and efficiently scale the programme once it’s up and running to an equal level of access via a number of technologies. The Meta Hub is accessible via PC, virtual reality headset, and as we scale up, a mobile app, whilst still ensuring we are within our responsible business boundaries and putting people first.
Another opportunity we have taken to differentiate with our clients, partners and employees has been to showcase our metaverse innovation alongside the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference known as COP27, demonstrating the role that enhanced virtual collaboration can play in the fight against climate change. Through interactive presentations, we have displayed how the metaverse can reduce the environmental impacts of travel and how the technology industry can partner with organisations in all sectors on the journey to net zero.
Where else is the metaverse appearing?
It seems inevitable that sooner or later the metaverse is going to become another channel through which certain sectors can engage both customers and employees. Banking is one such sector that is trying to embrace the approach. Many banks, including J.P.Morgan, Deutsche Banke and HSBC are starting to explore the opportunities.
But how can banks join the metaverse? A safe way to begin the metaverse experience is with an internal use case such as the one we started with at CGI, creating the ability to onboard and collaborate with employees in a virtual setting.
Another starting point is to mirror some of what banks already do in the real world and build customer engagement hubs in the metaverse. These can be anything from virtual branches to hooks for banking services that others can build into their own virtual worlds, such as virtual ATMs. This reuse approach allows banks that are at the forefront of innovation in the metaverse to capitalise on other early adopters wanting to deliver feature-rich experiences without necessarily developing those features themselves. This approach allows banks to expand their metaverse footprint without the corresponding effort on their part.
One of the metaverse’s strengths is that it can provide an experience that appeals to the next generation of banking customers. There are challenges in delivering some of the more complex banking services through traditional channels and so these often fall back on traditional bank branch networks. For customers who have grown up with interaction through digital channels and social media, this can be off-putting. The metaverse presents opportunities to deliver these complex services through an interactive 3-D rendered environment where customers can interact freely with bank personnel without having to visit a physical branch.
The opportunities with this type of emerging technology can be limitless and different amongst sectors, organisations, and users. It is an exciting time to be part of the metaverse and explore ambitions, experiences, and target outcomes. Now is the time to explore how to build pathways with people at the very heart.
Global Banking & Finance Review
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