New technologies – fit for banks?

One of the most exciting things about living in the modern world is seeing the rapid rate at which new technologies are emerging. In the last few years we’ve seen the internet and mobile phones become commonplace, and now we’re witnessing the birth of new devices that have the potential to change the way we interact with each other and the way we work.

At Nordnet, we’re keeping a close eye on how these new developments can change the future of banking. People at the office got really excited recently, when we set up a small “VR lab” where wecan experiment with the latest Oculus Rift Development Kit 2.

Virtual reality

You might wonder how banks can use virtual reality. After all, isn’t it just for games? Take a look at this innovative project from Fidelity Investments using Oculus Rift. They’re developing a world that allows users to visualize their investment portfolio and other stocks by representing them with buildings of different heights, the flights of birds, or even the weather, instead of rapidly changing screens of numbers and charts. Their ambition is to get traders thinking about stocks in a new way, enabling them to detect unexpected patterns and correlations, and spot movements that they would otherwise have missed.

Wells Fargo’s Digital Labs, meanwhile, have developed a prototype virtual bank, enabling customers with Oculus Rift to walk into a virtual branch and talk to a teller. It’s not clear whether that’s something that customers actually want to do, but it’s certainly an interesting experiment.

And finally, there are 3D kiosks currently being tested by banks in Texas and Ohio. They have fully detailed, life size tellers that make you think you’re talking to a real person instead of a 3D image, giving you the feeling of being in a branch but without having to actually go there.

All these technologies are, of course, in their embryonic stages, in terms of both the hardware and the software, so don’t necessarily expect to see them in your local bank any time soon. But they do point the way to what’s coming: an era where modern banking means more than just having a Web site and a mobile app.

Wearables

Another area of development, that will probably go mainstream earlier than Virtual Reality, is wearable computers. For starters, smart watches like the newly announced Apple Watch and headsets such as Google Glass. They haven’t been a huge hit with consumers yet, but developers are working hard to bridge the gap between geek gadget and mainstream device.

Most banking uses of smart watches have focused on the ability to quickly check your balance without having to get your phone out of your pocket, or to make payments. Banks such as Sparebank have already got smartwatch apps out and are evaluating consumer reactions.

Spain’s Banco Sabadell are running some interesting banking experiments using Glass. Some of the features of their recent Glass app are much the same as you’d see on a mobile app: locating the nearest ATM or checking your balance. The innovation lies in using the onboard camera to allow a banking specialist to see what you see: that may not seem like much, but it means you don’t have to scan and email documents or come into a branch when you have something to discuss.

Other banks are working on other neat features using Glass: PrivatBank in the Ukraine, for example enables users to pay bills by taking pictures of them or make payments with voice commands. This promotional video is in Ukrainian, but you get the idea.

Another company running some really fun wearable experiments is Australia’s Heritage Bank. They recently unveiled a banking assistant woven into the fabric of a suit. With just a wave of your arm, you can pay for items up to $100. I don’t predict that suits with payments will become the next big thing, but the exact same behaviour might very well become commonplace already next year with the launch of Apple Pay for Apple Watch.

What’s next for Nordnet?

To a large extent, the financial industry as a whole is still struggling to deliver the optimal user experiences online, both in terms of desktop and mobile banking. Nordnet will keep focus for the foreseeable future on meeting (and exceeding) our customers expectations on our web and mobile interfaces, but by keeping track of new technologies we will hopefully be ready for what our customers of the future will demand.

The only thing about the future we can be 100% sure of is that we cannot predict it, so from a technical perspective we very consciously try to standardise everything we do and keep clean interfaces between our systems. This enables us to respond and adapt quickly to the rapid changes of the technological world we live in.

Andreas Hassellöf

Do you have any ideas about technology that you think Nordnet should explore? Just post them in the comments below and we will take a look!

/Andreas Hassellöf, Tech Lead
http://twitter.com/hassellof

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