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Financial advice and the rise of gamification: Robo-advice may improve access but augmented reality could boost engagement

Mark Grimes
Westfield Introduce World-First Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Ahead Of 'Future Fashion' Event
Oculus Rift launched in the UK yesterday, and virtual reality could help boost engagement with financial advice when the tech is adopted more widely (Source: Getty)

The Pokemon Go craze may have subsided, but the mobile game has cemented augmented reality in the public’s consciousness. With the UK release of Oculus Rift yesterday, the more immersive virtual reality is also set to grip the nation. With these new states of reality engaging us, it begs the question: how long it will take for sectors outside the games industry to wake up to the possibilities of using this kind of technology to enhance consumer engagement?

One industry which is ripe for a shake-up is the financial services. Financial providers have long struggled with how to engage consumers, often falling at the first hurdle when it comes to introducing people to the concept of long-term saving early on in life.

Robo-advice

Access to financial advice is an obvious starting point. When discussion about how to initially engage more consumers, robo-advice often comes up. In theory, robo-advice should close the advice gap, offering a solution to the 95 per cent of people who cannot afford, or do not need to seek, counsel from a professional (human) adviser.

Read more: Robo-advice can democratise finance by making investing easy and convenient

We are still some way off from this being a reality. There are compliance costs involved, and for every piece of advice generated there needs to be a person monitoring it to ensure every possible scenario is approved. Big data will go a long way to solving this. If enough data can be collected, then almost every scenario can be categorised, solved and bespoke solutions created by robo-advice software.

But robo-advice only solves the access to advice gap. Ensuring consumers pay proper consideration to their financial wellbeing is a different matter, and should be next on the horizon for financial services. If it becomes possible to integrate financial management better into our daily lives and to engage with our finances over coffee or on the Tube, then building pension pots and reaching other financial goals will become far easier.

Augmented and virtual reality

It seems clear that an overlay of reality is the future of engagement, and Pokemon Go’s success underscored this. One of the reasons for its success was that augmented reality, or even virtual reality, is a natural next step for human interaction in today’s world. You are adding to an existing reality, instead of teaching consumers to learn and understand a completely new one. Based on this, it would be far more effective if we could engage with a virtual human through our smartphone, rather than interacting with a robo-adviser via a messaging platform on our computer.

Not only could this combined reality revolutionise the pension industry, but the entire financial services industry. Consider health insurance. You could get a bespoke health quote just by being able to have a conversation in virtual reality. Everyday banking, from your current account, savings and overdraft, could update you on demand. You could even monitor and get advice on your investments or assets whenever you wanted. People are seeking quick satisfaction and availability, and a combined reality is the obvious solution.

Read more: Virtual reality has arrived – Vive must be seen to be believed

Gamification is something the industry could use to enhance engagement even further. Rewarding customers when they take simple engagement steps will allow the financial services industry to mimic how games give consumers immediate satisfaction by doing simple steps.

All of this could be a reality in 10 years, possibly even sooner. Remember, it was only six years ago that smartphones were starting to become widely used. Now we are on the cusp of being able to manage our entire lives through them. Technology moves quickly, and can be impossible to predict. But if the financial services sector can keep up, it can harness online reality and thrive on a boom in engagement.

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