Banking on the Metaverse: The Imperatives of Web 3.0 for Financial Services
How should financial service companies build resilience for the decentralized future?
The massive financial services industry (including wealth management, retail banking and insurance) is a powerhouse player in today’s globalized economy. Despite (or perhaps due to) its scale, this sector has traditionally been slow to change, encumbered by legacy businesses, ever-changing regulations and complex business models. However, as the boom in fintech players and investments has shown, incumbents in the business are not immune to disruption.
Metaverse – The Next Wave of Disruption
Given the foreseeable growth of the Metaverse economy, digital currency and payments will be key to all transactions. However, amid recent controversies surrounding cryptocurrencies, such as the collapse of FTX, there is a heightened opportunity for financial services providers to build a strong sense of trust and security in the Metaverse with a commitment to strong governance. Both established, traditional companies and newer, digital players would be wise to think proactively about what their presence in the Metaverse can and should be.
Preliminary forays into the Metaverse by financial services firms have been focused mainly on brand building. In 2022, HSBC, Standard Chartered and DBS all acquired virtual plots of land in The Sandbox, a Metaverse game, with the goal of creating Metaverse experiences and touchpoints to engage with a new generation of customers. Similarly, J.P. Morgan opened a lounge in the virtual world Decentraland earlier this year but has been involved in Web 3.0 since 2020, when the bank launched Onyx, a blockchain-based platform for wholesale payment transactions. Meanwhile, new players are pushing in. Cryptocurrency exchange platforms such as Coinbase and Binance have annual exchange volumes in the trillions. Cryptocurrencies themselves are being created by a wide range of decentralized organizations and individuals.
With these waves of disruption shaking up the sector, financial institutions must consider both the why and the how of their Metaverse strategy. Below, we discuss what financial services brands should consider when building their brand presence, future offerings and new business models.
Defining the Why: Clarify Business Objectives and Your Audience
As mentioned, many leading financial services brands have already invested in the Metaverse. But it’s not just about being there; it’s about being there with a purpose. First, a brand must have a clear definition of why they are in the Metaverse. Is the goal to build brand awareness or create brand differentiation? Or is it about engaging with customers, improving loyalty and onboarding a new generation? Or do they want to educate a new generation of investors? Having clarity and alignment throughout all levels of the organization is critical to setting a visionary Metaverse strategy.
To define the why, brands first need to understand the profile of who is in the Metaverse today, including demographics, attitudes and behaviors. “Metazens” are drawn to the Metaverse for a variety of reasons – from entertainment to self-expression to community to creativity. How can brands enable their customers to achieve these goals in the Metaverse?
Then, as with any go-to-market strategy, financial services brands should be clear on their target audience within the Metaverse and how they want them to behave and engage with the brand. In Web 2.0, brands cannot be everything for everyone. The same is true in the Web 3.0 world. In turn, a Metaverse strategy should also align with the overall brand strategy and value proposition to ensure that the customer experience across all touchpoints– from offline to mobile to web to Metaverse– is consistent and cohesive.
Understanding the How: Innovating Business Models to Capture Emerging Opportunities
Once a brand’s objective on the Metaverse is defined, it must be translated into a feasible business model that can ultimately drive revenue. Unlike the fashion companies that have dominated the early stages of the Metaverse by selling digital apparel for avatars, financial services companies are posed with a more challenging but also potentially more exciting “how” when it comes to monetization in the Metaverse. The blurred physical and virtual realities will create new opportunities when it comes to payments, loans, investments and even new types of financial products not yet in the market today. As the Metaverse is still in its early stages, we’ve only just begun to explore what is possible.
When considering ways financial services brands can drive revenue, we see two near-term prospects.
1. The Evolution of Services With Rich Data.
In Web 2.0, customer data is centralized and comes from the limited customer touchpoints throughout the journey – from website visits to phone calls, from advertisements to purchases. In the Metaverse, customer touchpoints will evolve to become more experiential, multisensorial and multidimensional. Salespeople can interact with customers “face-to-face,” no longer confined by phone lines or chat boxes. Products can be showcased in real-time rather than on a webpage. All these interactions will generate an incredible amount of data points. Financial services organizations, thus, have the opportunity to define and evolve their experience principles on the Metaverse to offer more customized and higher-quality services. However, it is important to note that these data points are also decentralized and anonymous. Collecting data and attributing data to concrete customers will also become more difficult.
2. The Reimagination of Traditional Revenue Models.
As they do in the current Web 2.0 world, financial institutions have the expertise and resources to provide security, risk mitigation and fraud prevention for Metaverse transactions. They can also offer financing or protection for digital assets just as they do physical ones. Financial services brands can provide loans or insurance for NFTs, virtual real estate and other assets that users in the Metaverse will own. The merging of the online and offline worlds will allow brands to play in both spheres and find the opportunities for crossover.
Founded in 2018, ZELF calls itself the first bank of the Metaverse. It started as a messaging-first “neobank,” issuing cards to customers in a matter of minutes, simply by chatting with them via Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber or Telegram. Since then, it’s become the first financial services provider to allow customers to manage their gaming assets, cryptocurrency, digital art and regular (fiat) currency in one place. ZELF simplifies and democratizes access to financial services, facilitating financial transactions in the virtual world of crypto and gaming, enabling NFT trades, and allowing players to trade (or use as collateral) their digital assets earned from gaming for fiat currency.
Prophet defines the customer-centric framework of business model innovation as one that creates more value for customers while also increasing the amount of value available to be captured by the business.
Building a Roadmap For the Future
While the commercial and technological infrastructure of the Metaverse is still be developed, financial services providers need to start innovating their offerings for the future virtual community. In developing a roadmap for the future, financial institutions also need to identify the current knowledge and capability gaps and invest in the appropriate resources to fill them. The multidimensional Metaverse will also require a multidisciplinary effort across organizations.
As the Metaverse and Web 3.0 continues to evolve, new capabilities, technologies, use cases and business opportunities will continue to emerge. To seize these opportunities, innovation needs to happen across all platforms; thus, financial services brand should be ready with short- and long-term Metaverse activation roadmaps.
Defining the “why” and understanding the “how” is core to the way Prophet builds brands today. When designing a Metaverse strategy, it is just as essential for the process to be rooted in sharp consumer insights, a compelling value proposition, and a differentiated experience.
Prophet combines its deep expertise in financial services with a wide breadth of capabilities across customer research, brand building, experience design, business model innovation and digital transformation. Get in touch to see how we can help your financial services brand formulate a strategic roadmap to respond, adapt and transform in this next wave of the Metaverse.