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#VivaTech: BNP Paribas announces augmented reality banking experience

  • 20.05.2019

BNP Paribas has long been pioneering new approaches to customer experience, but at VivaTech this year it announced its latest digital ambition – an immersive, augmented reality experience that will deliver virtual in-person banking to customers around the world. The initiative was announced during the roundtable discussion on "How immersive technologies are transforming the User Experience and the world" held by Sophie Heller, COO Retail Banking and Services BNP Paribas, Kevin Cardona, Chief Innovation Officer BNP Paribas Real Estate, Omar Khan, Chief Product Officer of Magic Leap and Rémi Rousseau, co-founder of Mimesys.

Ready client one

Having shifted from paper to the web, and from the web to mobile banking, the next step in retail banking – and so for BNP Paribas’ 33 million retail customers – is immersive tech. At a roundtable discussion at this year’s Viva Technology event in Paris on May 17, BNP Paribas executives and partner tech developers discussed how they were pioneering a new retail banking experience that harnessed the latest immersive technology. 

This cutting-edge approach will see customers able to hold meetings with bank staff on different continents using augmented reality – a blend of virtual reality and live experience that is able to mix the digital and the physical worlds. The technology is already being tested by BNP Paribas, and will roll out to service clients initially in Asia and the Middle East. 

 “Clients of the bank in Hong Kong and Dubai will be able to interact with real estate experts in Paris, London and Frankfurt to discuss real estate opportunities in Europe,” explained Kevin Cardona, Chief Innovation Officer for BNP Paribas Real Estate, who spoke on the VivaTech main stage alongside Sophie Heller (COO Retail Banking and Services BNP Paribas), Omar Khan (Chief Product Officer Magic Leap), and Rémi Rousseau (co-founder of Mimesys). The panel described how the technology would work.

with the advent of immersive technology we can change the remote experiencE. It’s the closest experience yet to teleportation.

Banking clients will access the technology from their own environment, at their home or office, for example, but will be able to interact with holographic digital objects. They will be able to see and converse with three-dimensional digital renderings of bank staff – BNP Paribas Real Estate specialists in this case – along with digital objects and models such as buildings, urban environments, or apartments.

Augmented reality has the potential to do much more than just bring people together

One step closer to teleportation 

Augmented reality will allow customers to share something akin to a physical, face-to-face experience with banking staff thousands of miles away – and that’s important. Sharing physical space is precious: that’s why people fly across the world for a business meeting instead of making do with a Skype call. This technology will harness digital technology to deliver personal interactions whenever and wherever they are needed by the bank’s customers. “If, like us, you have clients, colleagues and partners all over the world with whom you want to invent the future, this is a technology that could change everything,” explained Kevin Cardona. 

Sophie Heller, COO Retail Banking and Services BNP Paribas - Kevin Cardona, Chief Innovation Officer BNP Paribas Real Estate - Omar Khan, Chief Product Officer Magic Leap and Rémi Rousseau, co-founder Mimesys

Rémi Rousseau agreed. He’s the co-founder of Mimesys, the French-Belgian startup that’s partnering with BNP Paribas on the augmented reality solution. “We started with the conviction that the future of work is going to be remote,” Rousseau said. “But with the advent of immersive technology we can change the remote experience … It’s the closest experience yet to teleportation.”

The technology is sensitive enough to allow deep, human connections.

Omar Khan, the Chief Product Officer at Magic Leap – BNP Paribas’ other partner in the project – believes this technology has the power to free customers from the constraints of working and interacting through a screen. “No longer should we be confined to the scale of a 12-inch or 18-inch computer monitor, or the six-inch screen on a mobile device,” he told the VivaTech audience. 

Augmented reality has the potential to do much more than just bring people together. Khan says it can be used to inspect objects in detail, pick them up and put them in the palm of one’s hand – or even bring the user inside huge virtual objects or digitally rendered buildings. 

Magic Leap believes augmented reality can reverse the traditional model of bringing someone to a place: they want to bring the “somewhere” to the individual. BNP Paribas’ latest deployment of augmented reality is going to bring environments to customers that weren’t previously accessible, and it can then increase the effectiveness of the human interaction that takes place.

The technology is sensitive enough to allow deep, human connections. “The most natural form of interaction for us is looking someone in the eye, interacting through gaze, gesturing to each other with our hands. It’s at this level that the technology will really shine,” explained Khan. 

Innovating to serve real client needs

The augmented reality technology uses two cameras to record a person in a physical space in real-time. The information gathered is then used to reconstruct a 3D model of that person in the second location. While the results may seem like something from a sci-fi film, the innovations are driven by genuine customer needs, and a strategy of putting customer experience at the heart of BNP Paribas’ banking technology. 

“We analyze and understand the impact of these new technologies on the businesses and lives of our clients, and the lives of our employees,” said Sophie Heller, COO Retail Banking and Services BNP Paribas. “We experiment and we launch initiatives to ensure that the bank stays relevant and attractive to both clients and employees.”

This client-centric approach to innovation also means paying close attention to the way technology is changing the habits of the bank’s customers. If more and more people are soon going to be shopping virtually, or using immersive technology to check out holiday destinations before they book a trip, this is something the bank must watch closely and replicate in its services, explained Sophie Heller. “The impact for the bank is that it changes the interactions that the customers will have with financial decisions and financial instruments.” 

The delivery of future-focused banking

This technology also has applications beyond the customer experience, Sophie Heller told the VivaTech audience. It could be used to enhance training for bank staff, for example. “We love the way Walmart is engaging immersive technologies,” she said. The American retailer put thousands of virtual reality headsets in its stores last year with a view to training over a million of its employees. “This allows you to simulate situations, for example complex situations you need to handle with a client. That can be much more powerful than a training video.”

Immersive tech also brings new business opportunities in the banking sector. The pace of technological change is creating new products and services every month: jobs, companies and industries that couldn’t have been imagined a few years ago are emerging and growing rapidly. All need the sort of future-focused banking that BNP Paribas strives to offer. 

As a bank, we need to understand these new sectors and the needs of our new clients

We experiment and we launch initiatives to ensure that the bank stays relevant and attractive to both clients and employees.

"As a bank, we need to understand these new sectors and the needs of our new clients,” said Sophie Heller, citing the example of professional E-sport players as one group of customers who could not have been imagined a few years ago. “These businesses and jobs are going to create specific needs and opportunities for the bank.”

VivaTech saw hundreds of startups congregate to talk about the technology that will power the world of tomorrow. BNP Paribas’s augmented solutions fit squarely into the trends emerging from the event – trends that harness technology to bring people together and maximize human interactions, to amplify customer experience and build better connections between us all. 

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