ABN metaverse update
Today I visited the Virtual World Seminar at the University of Delft and finally had time to sit down and talk with Popke Rein Munniksma, the team leader of ABN's 3D Experience and with Emmanuel Gruijs, CEO for Active Worlds Europe. In the past week we have had some contact on the blog ING and ABN flee Second Life which caused a little stir in the blogosphere.
First, of all, one of the remarks on the initial entry read:
"Maybe it has something to do with the company being taken over by Fortis."
Although the future isn't certain this has been denied completely. The takeover is not affecting ABN's presence in any way at this point in time. ABN is sticking in Second Life, but is indeed shifting focus to be able to do real business.
Popke Rein said: "As a bank we have the need to have 1 on 1 contact with our customers behind closed doors." By being a bank ABN is bound to very strict privacy and compliancy rules which make it impossible for them to conduct business in Second Life, hence their move towards Active Worlds.
Overview of ABN in Second Life
In December 2006 ABN Amro was the first European bank to enter Second Life and rode the wave of mass media attention perfectly. They primarily entered with a "just do it" mentality. Their initial 4 islands and offices have grown towards a 27 island presence at it's peak, but is being downsized now. A team of 4 full time employees on average has build and rebuild every experience over and over again, mainly based on user feedback (so I'm estimating a budget of close to 1 million euro).
Every build was an experiment to see to which part of the Bank's business they could find a virtual extention as they are convinced that Virtual Worlds are here to stay.
"Remember who said "The internet, we are not interested
in it," in 1993! That won't happen to ABN when it comes to virtual worlds. Every step the team made had to be checked with risk management and compliancy and other regulatory organs within the bank. We cannot afford to do that, go through that whole process, once virtual worlds become mainstream. Then it's too late."
That process of going through regulatory motions has become quite clear in their TechnoDesk and Tradeglobe sims in Second Life. In Real Life ABN has 5 TechnoDesk offices close to the 5 Technical Universities in the Netherlands. In these offices the bank offers information for High Tech startups and when looking at the population of Second Life, this was their logical 6th office.
The TradeGlobe is ABN's private banking vehicle with which they come into contact with their shamingly rich clients. In Second Life they've held investment meetings and so on.
Over the past year, the ABN greeter, the lovely Mrs. Jung, has had over 1.100 real business conversations with interested customers, which is more than the average local bankemployee has. In this regard, Second Life has been a success for the bank.
However, due to privacy rulings they found they would never be able to achieve one on one advice and were limited to general information only. Because of it's conservative nature and regulations the bank needs a secure environment to conduct one on one business. Active Worlds can offer this, said Emmanuel Gruijs on the growing affection between their world and the Dutch banker.
Popke Rein said: "Remember who said "The internet, we are not interested in it," in 1993!
Do you remember who said this?