A Human-Led Virtual Revolution

The key to virtual reality’s success isn’t the technology—it’s the people.


There are plenty of factors to consider when discussing the timeline for financial firms’ adoption of virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR).  Hardware development, price, and the overall availability of devices will all play a role in how long it will take to see VR/AR implementations at financial services firms. 

However, the most important piece of the VR/AR puzzle is the actual people using it. The speed at which adoption occurs will rely heavily on the users.

It doesn’t matter how slick the headsets look, or how efficient they are advertised to be. How quickly people are willing to wear what basically amounts to a pair of goggles will be dictated by how comfortable they feel using the device.

The concept of employees, not technology, causing enterprise evolution isn’t foreign to our industry. After all, if most firms had it their way, people would still be using BlackBerrys.

But smartphone technology evolved and, more importantly, people got more comfortable using them as part of their day-to-day routine. Employees pushed for the ability to use their personal phones for work. This forced firms to look into developing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, which are now commonplace among most financial services firms

Regardless of the improvements made to the hardware, price or availability, nothing will move forward until people begin to adopt it.

To read more about the potential of VR/AR technology at financial firms, click here. 

Comfort Is Key

So how will VR/AR technology push to be implemented at the enterprise level in the same way that BYOD policies did? It’s a matter of the devices seeping into our everyday lives. And while use cases at banks might seem far-fetched at the moment, other industries are primed for disruption.

Gaming is the leader in the VR/AR clubhouse, and for obvious reasons. It has the most practical and easily definable use cases. Playing video games in a VR/AR environment seems like the natural progression for the space. 

Media isn’t far behind. The potential for watching movies, television or consuming other types of content in a digital environment is appealing. You can add to that list the travel and real-estate industries. Wondering whether to spend all that money on a trip to that Caribbean resort? Pop on a headset and check it out for yourself. Interested in a home on the market but can’t make it to the open house? Use your VR/AR device to see it for yourself.

While some of these use cases might seem far removed from the capital markets, it’s important to acknowledge how quickly we can adapt to not only wanting to use new technology but essentially needing it.

Two years ago, I’d call up a restaurant I wanted to get food from and place my takeout order. Now, thanks to apps like Seamless, the concept of physically calling someone because I want some food seems crazy. Life moves fast, but our reliance on new technology moves even faster. 

Listen to Sean Belka, director of Fidelity Labs, discuss VR/AR use cases at financial firms on the Waters Wavelength podcast. 


Don’t get me wrong, all the factors I mentioned previously are important. People don’t get comfortable and reliant on a device if it’s too big, too expensive or too hard to find. The people piece of the puzzle is certainly reliant, to a degree, on all those issues being addressed before it can move forward.

But regardless of the improvements made to the hardware, price or availability, nothing will move forward until people begin to adopt it. It’s a fragile ecosystem, but there is no doubt that users’ interests lie at the top. 

So what can we expect going forward? This year will be a big one for VR and AR, as it will continue to seep into our everyday lives. By the end of the year it will have gained enough of a foothold in our culture that a significant number of financial services firms will at least entertain the idea of potential use cases in the space.

From there it’s simply a matter of how long firms are willing to wait before they succumb to what will eventually be a rising demands from employees to use the technology at work. 

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