Suited avatars and digital offices: traders and bankers embrace VR
Cochin Herald|November - December 2020
Once the preserve of gamers, virtual reality (VR) has been seized on by the financial sector as a way of enlivening home working for lonely traders or isolated executives and replicating real-world sales, networking or training events.

With 90% of employees at some of the world's biggest financial firms now working at home due to a resurgence in coronavirus infections, more and more companies are experimenting with VR.

Some practices could stick beyond the pandemic, particularly as home working becomes more widespread.

At investment manager Fidelity International, executives experimented with a VR auditorium, taking questions from colleagues and even walking up and down the aisles. Working from home has massively accelerated the interest in virtual/ online spaces, said Stuart Warner, head of technology at Fidelity International which manages $3.3 trillion in assets.

Having internally explored VR and augmented reality (AR) technology, which unlike VR is not fully immersive and involves computer-generated elements being visible through a smartphone screen for example, Fidelity now aims to trial VR with its sales teams' interactions with clients.

It brings it to life a bit, Warner said.

For London-based Ed Greig, chief disruptor at Deloitte Digital, VR has sparked conversations with potential clients and colleagues in far-flung cities in office get-togethers.

The other day, I was finishing a VR meeting with somebody and as I was walking out of their office I bumped into a person who was coming in for another meeting and that interaction for a couple of minutes turned into a proper business conversation later, Greig said.

VR can be useful not just for scheduled meetings but also for helping ease feelings of isolation and giving some workers the office buzz they crave and thrive in.

Swiss bank UBS has experimented with issuing its London-based traders with Microsoft HoloLens smart glasses, which it says allows staff to recreate the trading floor experience at home.

Zoom Fatigue

VR headsets allow users to see and interact with others in the same digital room, and movements, such as turning one's head, correspond with how the person's avatar moves in the space.

Recreating the feeling of human interaction is what has provided impetus for the VR push.

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