Augmented Reality & Finance

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… a Match Made In Heaven

The exponential pace of change around the digital landscape has ensured that the Finance industry is now firmly at the edge (if not already over it) of experiencing considerable disruption. Industry regulations, and a steady flow of emerging tech, are causing a fundamental shift in how the industry does business.

What’s more, as customers, we’ve become a demanding bunch – in part due to technology helping create this ‘I want it now!’ mentality – looking for an ever more value‐driven, personal, and truly seamless service from whoever happens to be providing it. Banking, customer-focused by its very nature, is hearing these demands loud and clear!

We’ve come a long way …

According to CACI, as many as 72% of the UK adult population, or 35 million people, will be using mobile banking by 2023 – the factors behind which can, in large, be attributed to the incredible convenience, accessibility and functionality that they offer us. Who hasn’t, after all, enjoyed the ability to transfer money, settle bills and check our balance? Now, we take this ability as a given – but digital innovation in Finance is about to take on a whole new flavour as Augmented Reality reaches its shores, and with it, the potential to radically enhance the customer experience.

Research says that the market for AR/VR could well be worth $150 billion by 2020 (Google), with AR itself looking at a massive $120 billion chunk of that figure. And although it’s only really just starting to garner attention amongst the wider population, AR has actually been around some time. Up to this point, it’s mostly familiar in gaming, but very soon it will be your bank that’s delivering it. Why Banking? Easy. The technology (improving all the time), the people (millennials who have grown up with AR), and the need (by the banks and the customer) – all converging to create the perfect storm. And it’s promising to be one heck of a storm.

To date, a number of banks have already introduced AR into their digital arsenal, transforming the customer experience with real value-added benefits:

  •  Halifax in the UK and The Commonwealth Bank of Australia offer ‘home finder’ apps that use Augmented Reality to allow users to browse and analyse houses for sale.
  • Westpac New Zealand delivered an app allowing their customer to scan debit/credit cards on the app and get the financial low-down on the card.
  • The National Bank of Oman has introduced AR to enable their customers to find the nearest branches and ATMs.

… and these are just a few. For the real innovators, and for those who dare to dream, AR ensures the future is very, very bright – which is good news for the consumer.

AR & Industry – What’s it all about?

The bottom line? AR is great for attributing information to real world objects, be that pricing info for a sandwich, a tripadvisor rating for a restaurant, or locating your nearest bank branch or ATM. If people have huge amounts of information for real world things, AR presents the very real opportunity to help in an engaging way.

Mike Romilly, CEO of Mozenix (AR specialists), believes that; “In the same way that mobile technology has transformed the desktop computing landscape over the past decade, AR technology, or ‘spatial computing’, has the potential to transform the way in which consumers interact with mobile devices and apps, as technology starts to shift from what we carry (smartphones) to what we wear (HUD’s – heads up display).”

“And in the same way that CTO’s and Software Development Managers had to carefully consider the impact of mobile on their existing desktop and web apps, they will now need to think hard about how emerging technologies impact existing mobile applications. This is particularly relevant for industries like banking, finance, and retail – to name but a very few. “

In essence, Augmented Reality technology is really about creating ‘camera apps’, and understanding how to leverage true value for end users via the device camera. As such, AR tech belongs in the domain of mobile developers as an extension of the camera, and ought to be on the radar of CTO’s seeking to extend the usefulness of current software offerings and push their digital boundaries. AR has the capacity to transform software delivery, business operations and how we interface with existing and potential customers.

The Bank, The Technology and The Waracle Team

At Waracle, we’re no strangers to AR, so when Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banking Group (CYBG) raised the issue of chaotic real-life currency conversions we knew that AR had a lot to offer . The challenges:

  • Enable app users to convert currency with a high degree of accuracy and in real-time – all whilst ensuring robust information security.
  • Address the needs of an increasingly mobile end-user to deliver tangible benefits through the CBB app.
  • Support users abroad to quickly and easily carry out financial transactions.

“We know that customers want to be able to access the financial information they need, when they need it, how they need it – and in any given scenario – and that includes convenience when abroad too. The B Currency Converter was a no-brainer.”

Name of Quotee

The resulting B Currency Converter app has its eye firmly on the future, combining different technologies to make the process of  currency conversion faster and easier. The app (free to download from the app Store) enables holidaymakers to rapidly convert currency whilst abroad, using either AR or a manual calculator. By pointing their phone’s camera at a price, or multiple prices, the augmented app instantly converts prices , using the latest exchange rate.

“Currency conversion is a real everyday problem for travellers – it’s always been this way. The B Currency Converter isn’t what you’d normally expect from a bank, but it’s one of the most innovative examples we’ve experienced by deploying AR technology to solve a real everyday problem – and it works.This is where AR starts to show its true colours – an enabler that delivers tangible benefits in ways that other tech would struggle with.”

Chris Martin, CEO Waracle

Of course, innovation in AR is all about understanding how to add tangible value to the customer experience – this isn’t tech for tech’s sake, it’s addressing a real problem, and it’s doing it in a very clever way. This very smart B Currency Converter app marries together a range of technologies, including OCR tech as the ‘beating heart’ of the app; an external currency conversion API; and GeoCoding functionality to ascertain the users location and assume the default currency to be converted.

So what next for AR and Banking?

The CYBG project is just one of many AR initiatives that banking is taking advantage of – but there’s still a sense of urgency around uptake of the game-changing technology. Banks need to continue to step up and take advantage of the potential that AR can bring to the customer experience, or risk having their place at the table usurped by non-banking enterprise and startups.

At the heart of all this is what really matters to customers. What does the banking ‘journeys’ look like, how are interactions taking place (or not) and where’s the real value to be added to their experience? And is there a place for Augmented Reality to support that experience in a way that has real tangible benefits?

What to do next

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