Gamification is here. What’s gamification, you ask? As defined by tech research and consulting firm Gartner Inc., gamification applies game mechanics to non-game environments to motivate people and change behavior. Back in 2011, Gartner even went so far as predicting that gamification could become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon.
That might sound hyperbolic, but gamification has caught on in many different industries—including financial services. And products are being developed that could add a twist to relationships between financial advisors and their clients.
“Clients trust advisors to make financial decisions for them, but advisors need clients to be engaged in the subject of their financial future to help them,” says Gabe Zichermann, CEO of Dopamine, a company that creates gamification products and services for customers including financial services companies.
But financial topics intimidate a lot of folks, hence the appeal of spicing up the subject matter with game-like features. “It’s about making things more engaging so that people will pay attention to them and do the things they need to do,” Zichermann says.
He cited the efforts of insurers Sun Life and Axa, both of which have employed gamification to explain why people should buy insurance. “Both have games that involve you dying so you can see what happens to your heirs after you die,” Zichermann says. “It’s both fun and morbid, but it’s important for people to understand the purpose and value of insurance, and it’s a method of engaging people in a process that would otherwise be difficult to discuss.”
A less-morbid example involves the Web site financialsoccer.com from credit card giant Visa, which is a financial literacy game tied to this summer’s World Cup soccer event in Brazil. The game swoops players into Rio De Janeiro and lands them in a soccer stadium, where they’re prompted to play a game that asks them financial questions as a soccer match is played.
There are three levels based on age groups, and the oldest bracket (ages 18+) has four categories: saving, budgets, avoiding financial pitfalls and creditworthiness. Game lengths are five, 10, 20 and 30 minutes. I chose the five-minute game, and as a member of Team USA had my choice of opponent from among the world’s nations. I chose Albania.
The questions asked related to credit cards, currencies and mortgages. I then opted for a question in the “hard” category (the other categories were “easy” and “medium”) about the prime lending rate. That took me to halftime, with the score knotted at zero.
The second half entailed more questions, and the match ended in a 0-0 stalemate. It was then shootout time, which included a series of questions on various topics including supply-and-demand dynamics and laddering CDs with different maturity dates. I (or Team USA) eventually scored three goals by answering questions correctly and managed to block all of Albania’s shots for a 3-0 victory.
I got some questions wrong during the game, so I learned something. And hey, it was fun. Imagine if they can gamify really complicated subjects like, say, grantor trusts.
Regarding financial advisors, Zichermann says there are advisor-specific products in the works that are mostly focused on consumers. “There’s a brewing arms race within the financial services industry to develop gamification products that engage consumers in ways that are both entertaining and educational,” he notes. “Advisors should expect a shift away from instructional videos, documents and training sessions and toward more fun interactions to teach about new products and services.”