There may not be an immediately obvious connection between free investment advice and the developments in virtual reality technology. However, Fidelity, one of the largest ISA and pensions and funds providers in the UK has been running trials in the U.S. that use VR technology in the training of advisory staff.
The trials, which have been run with a number of teams of staff whose role it is to advise clients on Fidelity’s investment products over the phone, have been conducted by Fidelity Labs. Fidelity Labs is an offshoot of the financial services giant tasked with exploring how emerging technologies can be used to improve the company’s performance, products and services. VR is being used to help facilitate ‘empathy training’, which is supposed to make advisors more aware of how the way they perform their job can directly impact their clients.
Advisors are, through VR, transported into the home of the client during and after a training call of the kind that is regularly made to advise Fidelity clients on their options. The concept is that advisors watch the client’s response to their call and the answers provided to their questions both during and after the call.
Fidelity Labs’ VR headset, which uses Google Daydream technology, allows advisors to observe the facial expressions of clients as they interact with them. They also remain present in the home of the client following the call to assess the client’s subsequent reaction. In one scenario a client calls her daughter following the interaction with Fidelity’s advisor, upset that particular options weren’t provided and concerns addressed. In another scenario, the client happily confirms her satisfaction at the outcome of the call with the daughter.
A Fidelity Labs spokesperson explained why the company sees value in the VR technology in relation to the company’s products and potentially has a wider future role in investment advice:
“We heard from some that they were quickly reminded there are always real people on the other side, facing real challenges. Emotion is often a big factor in these conversations. Navigating the complex array of decisions and potential money moves requires understanding not only of the different Fidelity products and services available, but also empathy for the caller’s personal situation.”
“Nothing beats real experience when talking with investors, but being exposed to specific scenarios in a virtual environment, may help prepare new employees for various situations”.
So, who knows, in the future we may see IFAs all trained using virtual reality! Fidelity Labs has also used VR to create a product called StockCity, which combines VR with data visualisation to represent an investor’s investment portfolio as a city in which the size of buildings indicates volume and price data.
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