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A still from Standard Chartered's announcement video.

Standard Chartered Hong Kong sees metaverse as future of banking

Banks can make use of AR/VR to offer more personalised services from the safety of clients' homes.

Could the next frontier of banking services lie in the metaverse? For Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) Hong Kong, it just might be. The bank, through its investment arm, SC Ventures, recently purchased virtual land in The Sandbox—a blockchain-based virtual world aiming to build a vast metaverse which allows users to create and monetise their own distinct worlds and game experiences.

In particular, SCB Hong Kong bought a piece of land in the Mega City district, touted as a culture hub based on and inspired by Hong Kong talents. 

This makes SCB Hong Kong the first bank to acquire virtual land at The Sandbox’s Mega City.

“The metaverse is all about the next phase in the internet’s evolution, bringing new possibilities and unique experiences through the use of immersive technologies,” Alex Manson, head of SC Ventures by Standard Chartered, told Asian Banking & Finance. “Our involvement in the metaverse allows us to reimagine our relationship with existing and potential clients.”

“We chose The Sandbox as they are one of the leaders in this space and have impressed us both with their vision and their execution,” Manson said. “The idea of being an anchor in a virtual community focused on Hong Kong partners excites us, as we are historically one of the note-issuing banks and an anchor in the physical Hong Kong community.”

In particular, SCBHK said that it plans to use the space to explore co-creation opportunities in the metaverse, with the goal of experimenting and building new experiences for clients, as well as bringing the local sports and art communities into the metaverse.

What Metaverse?
If your mind is beset with visions of a 360 degree full virtual reality living akin to that seen in the film Ready Player One, you are not exactly that far off. The metaverse aims for a world in which its users can participate in or even inhabit “a persistent shared experience that spans the spectrum of our real-world to a fully virtual world and in between,” as defined by the professional services company, Accenture. 

For banks, this provides the opportunity to deliver even more personalised banking journeys without clients having to leave the safety of their homes. 

Standard Chartered has yet to disclose its exact plans for its newly bought virtual land. But it is likely that the bank will explore offering personalized banking services through virtual reality and augmented reality.

“In the metaverse, banks could deliver advice and build relationships at a time when banking has become commoditised and drained of emotional salience. The metaverse could put humanity back into the conversation in ways that would simply not be possible in app alerts or text messages,” Accenture’s senior managing director and global banking lead Michael Abbott, and managing director & banking & capital markets lead for North America Jess Murray wrote in a report.

Ignoring the metaverse is a big opportunity missed for banks: Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have both estimated that the metaverse economy could be worth as much as $8t by 2030.

Other opportunities arising from the metaverse include the creation of new payments rails that power transactions in the virtual world, and the invention of new products and services–for example securing, insuring, and lending against digital assets like digital currencies.

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