Race for the Pole Position in the Metaverse – Business Opportunities for Banks
In the media, Meta (formerly Facebook) is positioning itself very strongly as the future metaverse and it appears as if the “one” metaverse is being developed by Meta. This impression is deceptive. But first, let’s briefly discuss Meta’s motivation. The growth rates of Monthly Active Users (MAU) on Facebook have declined significantly over the last two years (Kemp, 2022). While Meta still has some interesting drivers in the form of WhatsApp and Instagram, Facebook itself seems to have reached a growth limit as an offering. In addition, there are problems with fake accounts and inappropriately orchestrated content (Brandt, 2020). At the same time, “gaming” has been neglected as an offering. Therefore, the metaverse seems to be the new, highly exciting strategic option for Marc Zuckerberg. But he is not alone in this realization. But first to the question of what characterizes a metaverse.
“The metaverse is a virtual space in which users move with the help of avatars and in which they can influence and use virtual artifacts, such as when they put on clothes, build a house and furnish it, open a door and step out onto the street to meet fellow players and like-minded people. As in the real world, people can live, work, learn, trade, have conversations and build relationships there. “(Bendel, 2022)
The Competitors in the Metaverse
Basically, three types of competitors for the pool position can be observed. On the one hand, these are the classic digital companies such as Meta with “Horizon Workroom” (Horizon Workrooms, o. J.) or Microsoft with “Mesh for Teams” (Meisel & Reimann, 2021). Furthermore, however, large game operators such as Roblox (200 million monthly active users) or Fortnite (350 million registered users) are also among the builders of the metaverses, where this is a further development of their already existing game platforms (Needleman, 2020; G. Park, 2020; Urban, 2021; Wengi, 2020). However, there are also metaverses that have been designed as “metaverses” from scratch. These include Decentraland, which was founded in 2015, or Sandbox, both of which have built their own Ethereum-based worlds and currencies (Hayward, 2022; Urban, 2022).
Regarding access to the metaverse, it will probably take longer until all interested users worldwide can access AR/VR glasses. In the foreseeable future, access will therefore continue to be possible via smart devices or game consoles, for example.
Type of Metaverses and Open Questions Regarding NFT
It is still completely unclear what kind of metaverse will eventually emerge, a single dominant unit, several large units, or many small units.
Depending on the type of metaverse that is created, many exciting questions arise: What will a transfer of avatars from one metaverse to another look like? Is it possible to transfer NFTs, especially skins? Who will monetize these services?
The Users of the Metaverse
By no means is it just artists like Snoop Dogg (see Video 1) or luxury brands like Gucci and Prada that are opening branches or even their own countries in the various metaverses.
By the way, if Gucci is selling virtual handbags at a higher price in the sandbox than in reality, that suggests huge business potential ($4,115 vs. $3,400) (Williams, 2021). But beyond these activities, which might be considered gimmicky, there are already tangible use cases in smart manufacturing, healthcare, and virtual cities/public services.
One way to use the metaverse for industrial production is to create digital twins, i.e., digital representations, of industrial machines or product (parts), for example, that can be used to simulate production processes. Two manufacturers that are already starting to simulate their production in the metaverse are Boeing and Siemens. While Boeing wants to digitally map aircraft production, Siemens is using the metaverse to offer predictive maintenance services. (Ghose et al., 2022)
In healthcare, it is conceivable that the use of augmented and virtual reality applications could help surgeons perform complex operations, although this has yet to be extensively tested. However, the Metaverse is already being used for training, for example by Seoul National University Bundang Hospital (SNUBH), which offers training in a virtual intelligent operating room. (Ghose et al., 2022)
South Korea is also one of the pioneers in this area. The city of Seoul has included virtual interaction with its citizens in its vision for 2030. Plans include the virtual provision of public services that would otherwise require a visit to the city hall or a community center. Tourist attractions, events or reconstructions of historical buildings are also to be accessible in the metaverse. (Gaubert, 2021; Ghose et al., 2022)
Business Opportunities for Banks
So where do the banks stand? While BNP Paribas has already held a virtual private banking conference (siehe Video 2; „BNP Paribas veranstaltet virtuelle Private Banking Konferenz mit ZREALITY“, 2021), other banks are already building their own branches (JP Morgan) (Birch, 2022) or are acquiring land in the sandbox (HSBC) to target sports enthusiasts there (Schesswendter, 2022). There is also already a first virtual branch from the South Korean KB Bank, where customer consultations are already being conducted and employees are being trained in the Metaverse (D. Park, 2021).
I see new business opportunities, not yet realized, in the following areas: Re-establishing emotional banking through virtual branches in the metaverse – especially for those customers who today only use digital banking -, offering payments in the metaverse and transfer in fiat money, valuation and/or financing as well as trading of NFTs (esp. real estate and art) and management of users’ wallets. Certainly, other business areas will open up, so banks should watch these options.
 Skins are certain visual features of a game character that do not entail any abilities (e.g., purely aesthetic equipment, or clothing) (see, e.g., Udowenko, 2022).
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