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Banking in the Metaverse

Rory Donovan
June 27, 2023

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Artificial Intelligence is booming right now — with some analysts saying it’s the most important theme for Big Tech this year.

New AI-based products and technologies are constantly appearing, and their impact will only grow from here, including in the world of finance. 

You might expect a chatbot to reply when you try to contact your bank online, or an automated response when you call them. But AI’s impact on money and investing is likely to be much broader, experts say.

“AI is both disrupting and refining existing personal finance,” Bonnie Buchanan, a professor of finance at the University of Surrey, told CNBC Make It. AI already plays a role in everything from savings to retirement planning, budgeting to credit scores and insurance to trading, she said.

Users often don’t even notice when AI is involved, adds Sarah Coles, head of personal finance at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“For example, AI is used by banks to track spending, and automatically alert people when they spend, or reach a specific level in their account. They may also track whether the spending is typical, and alert users to possible instances of fraud,” she told CNBC Make It.

But this is likely just the beginning, according to the experts.

Banking in the metaverse?

One of the ways Coles sees AI expanding in personal finance is by offering more targeted and specific support with financial planning, for example. “AI could be used to improve the targeting of information so that people can only get the information they need, when they need it, so they’re more likely to engage,” she said, adding that this could help people make better financial choices.

Kimberly Dillon, vice president for brand at AI-powered financial services app Cleo, also believes new money management tools could emerge. “We’ll be able to understand and quickly adapt to how people are saving and spending money, then tailor tools to those behaviors, and also better assess which financial services would benefit someone,” she told CNBC Make It.

Buchanan takes it another step further. “Then there is of course the evolving metaverse. Many banks and financial services providers are establishing a presence in the metaverse,” she said. “In the not-so-distant future, with the aid of VR/AR [virtual reality/augmented reality] devices people could go into the metaverse for their banking, insurance and wealth management needs.”

These money management changes could make finance more accessible and inclusive, and protect customers from financial harm, experts say.

“It offers the chance to vastly improve access to the help people really need,” Coles says.

For example, it could help banks notice if certain customers were often in debt or short on money and provide advice about improving their situation before it gets out of control, she suggested.

Dillon adds that AI-based technologies can also help create personalized budgeting plans to help people get back out of such situations.

Convenience also plays a major role, Buchanan said. Chatbots can often execute basic financial interactions, for example, and AI tools can set off alarm bells around suspected fraud, she explained.

What could go wrong?

But there are also risks — data safety being one of them, according to Buchanan.

“Big data is powering much of AI personal finance applications, but there are risks. What if your personal financial data is hacked or stolen?” she said, bringing up a risk factor Coles is also concerned about. Sensitive information like this requires careful safeguarding, the latter added.

Financial literacy is another area that could be impacted negatively. “There is a risk that people will choose to be over reliant on these tools without building a proper foundation of education,” Dillon said.

This can be dangerous as people might not know what is happening to their money or use products they do not understand that then don’t work for them and their situation, the experts explain.

And understanding your money is key, even with AI, as someone’s financial situation is often “down to hundreds of micro decisions made every single day,” Dillon noted.

This also includes understanding the role AI plays in money management, Buchanan adds. “I think now both financial literacy and digital literacy are necessary skills to possess in an increasingly more complex financial marketplace,” she said.

Ultimately, a hybrid approach might therefore be the safest bet, Coles suggests.

“The best solutions will involve automating those things that can be automated, providing human support where it can add real value, and empowering people with the information and support they need to make the best possible financial decisions,” she concluded.

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