Pokemon Go Hints at the Future of Banking.
"To say it has spread like wildfire is to exaggerate the power of wildfires." That's how The New Yorker contributor Om Malik characterized the rapid adoption of the latest mobile gaming craze, Pokemon Go.
Built on a foundation of augmented reality, the game overlays the real-time images captured by a user's smartphone camera with cartoon Pokemon characters. Kids and adults alike are wandering their cities, visiting physical locations to apprehend the animated creatures inside a virtual world they interact with on their screens.
Aside from the increasing likelihood of Pokemon Go players wandering into credit union branches, why should the larger movement care?
Although there's likely a wide swath of lessons we can learn from the app's popularity, one stands out for me: AR's outstanding ability to trigger certain behaviors.
Just look at how this one app has already roused some 21 million individuals from their couches (and office chairs) to visit very specific locations. Retail stores, churches -- even some community financial institutions -- are experiencing unprecedented crowds comprised of entirely new consumer segments. Users are devoting 43 minutes on average to Pokemon Go. That's more time than even Snapchat or Facebook commands.
Way Beyond Gaming
You might say gaming is but one Pokestop on AR's longer journey to mass adoption. According to a Digi-Capital study, AR companies will generate $120 billion in revenue by 2020. The immersive technology has already begun moving beyond the gaming universe into our own world of financial services.
AR blends virtual reality and real life to give people deep, visceral experiences without the cost, time or risk they may otherwise have to expend. And it's only sometimes about entertainment. Other times, it's about something much more serious, like the engineering and maintenance of jets. Lockheed Martin, for example, has used AR to compare digital 3D models of aircraft with actual aircraft to identify potential damage.
As for financial services, one investment bank has begun experimenting with the technology inside its wealth management division. People often struggle to really "see" their financial futures. With AR's ability to "achieve presence," visualizing our future may become easier. The bank has built an interactive retirement planning app that helps users picture, quite literally, their journey toward retirement. Early studies of the application showed consumers, when shown computer-generated versions of themselves at retirement age, are more willing to accept later financial rewards over immediate ones.
This is just one example of how AR can convert financial content from boring or uninspiring to vivid and immersive. Try getting a millennial consumer into a branch to sign up for a retirement savings account. Not likely, right? But what if we could help the consumer visualize him or herself down the road with an AR experience?
AR has a lot of potential to transform education, as well. Future generations of credit union members and leaders may come to expect immersive learning experiences. Consider Google Expeditions, which takes students on virtual field trips, or World of Comenius, which uses virtual reality headsets to teach biology and anatomy. The potential for AR to improve the delivery and effectiveness of financial literacy initiatives, too, is significant.
Convergence of Technology Drives Scale
The future of AR in banking is something we've been watching at TMG for several years. In fact, it was part of the 2015 TMG Executive Summit opening session, which addressed several of the exponential technologies reshaping our business. At this year's Executive Summit, we took that discussion a step further by looking at the exponential growth curve.
The curve outlines what happens to a product or service when it becomes digitized. It travels through what XPRIZE Foundation CEO Peter Diamandis calls the 6D's of exponential technology, eventually becoming democratized. In other words, it becomes so widely available, markets begin to explode.
Pokemon Go is a great example of this. Users no longer need to come out of pocket for an expensive and soon-to-be-outdated gaming console to participate. They no longer need a wired connection to the internet. Nor do they even need to have actual friendships to be a part of the ever-expanding Pokemon gaming community. The convergence of augmented reality, mobile handsets, broadband internet and social networks has revolutionized gaming. This combination of exponential technologies has opened entirely new markets for game developers and allowed products like Pokemon Go to scale -- and fast.
If we think the rapid convergence of exponential technologies won't soon do the same for everyday financial transactions, we have some more thinking to do.
How Can We Participate in AR Disruption?
Like many of the toe-dipping innovations consumers and businesses are experimenting with today, Google isn't far removed. Pokemon Go's developer, Niantic, is a project that started inside Google, developing augmented and mixed-media reality games for mobile devices. Niantic has since spun off on its own.
Google is no stranger to AR. Remember Google Glass? Although its first iteration did not hit the mark with consumers, the learnings Google came away with will undoubtedly inform future generations of the tech giant's AR-enabled technology.
This is not to say the only innovators out there work for Google. Earlier this month, I was introduced to Ernie Garcia, founder of Carvana, a startup auto sales business that is forever altering the car-buying experience. What he said struck me as incredibly important for those credit union leaders who feel a stirring in their belly to explore exponential technologies but who may be operating in a culture too risk averse to put any real energy behind it.
His advice to credit union leaders was to intelligently find ways to experiment. He suggested cooperatives partner with startups to fill in some of the innovation gaps they may have. "Startups want to be your experiment so badly," he said. "They will work hard for you; they are fighting to stay alive. If it doesn't work out, it won't hurt you too badly."
Exponential Technology Requires Exponential Leadership
"Pocket monsters" hide in plain sight within Pokemon Go. Which technologies are doing the same in our rapidly-evolving world? Imagine the power of AR, especially when combined with other exponential technologies, like 3D printing, robotics or machine learning. It's a virtual tsunami of innovation with waves of disruption threatening the shores of traditional financial services.
As scary as that sounds, the power of exponential technology can be harnessed to reimagine everyday banking.
What is -- or can be -- digitized to allow for rapid, exponential growth and scalability across the financial services ecosystem? How can we use technology to create immersive, motivating experiences that improve the lives of the consumers we serve?
To answer those and similar questions, we must work to develop cultures of exponential leadership within the movement. Reaping the significant benefits of exponential technologies like AR starts with an innovative and exponential mindset.
Shazia Manus is CEO of payments processor TMG. She can be reached at email@example.com.