Kyle Moore is looking forward to the day when he can outsource a new client’s financial plan to a company that can create a 3D video of the plan’s goals, viewable on a virtual-reality headset.
“The more vivid a picture you have in mind of your future, the more likely you are to be motivated to delay gratification today in order to achieve your financial goals down the road,” said Moore, founder of Quarry Hill Advisors in Minneapolis.
Moore is among a rising number of financial advisors nationwide who believe that virtual reality (VR) technology geared to financial planning will help clients overcome their limited ability to envision their golden years.
“Fintech firms are looking to use virtual reality technology to help advisors engage with clients remotely as part of the gamification trend,” said Dennis Gallant, president of Gallant Distribution Consulting in Sherborn, Mass. “As millennials mature and enter the market, Skype, Facetime and Smartphone might eventually be replaced by VR headsets to review or visualize account information [and] investments or to speak with an advisor.”
Fidelity Investments and BNP Paribas are among the companies developing VR tools with investing in mind.
Fidelity’s R&D think tank, Fidelity Labs, developed Stock City, which allows investors to don an Oculus Rift VR headset and experience walking through a city in which each building represents an individual stock within a portfolio. The VR experience includes sunny or stormy weather to indicate a good or bad trading day.
“The killing factor would be to enrich VR with a cognitive assistant that can deal with financial scenarios over time to foster more conscious life goals management,” said Paolo Sironi, author of “FinTech Innovation: From Rino-Advisors to Goal Based Investing and Gamification.”
Advisor Chris Chen said he sampled a VR headset while attending a fintech conference in Boston.
“It was designed to compare the size, market value and volatility of different stocks,” Chen said. “I liked it, but it cost $250,000 a year. If I could pay a lease of $5,000 or $10,000 a year, I would definitely use a VR headset in the education phase of my workshops to demonstrate the possible effects of portfolio changes.”
While VR headsets can help investors envision what could possibly happen in their life and retirement portfolio as time goes on and they grow older, a downside is that the gaming aspect of it could cause investors to view the headset as a toy rather than a helpful tool.
“Any time you use gamification it certainly presents the potential for distraction,” said Alan Moore, founder of the XY Planning Network in Bozeman, Mont. “My hope is that technology providers, in working with financial advisors, will be able to find ways to make this technology useful.”
Sironi doesn’t expect VR headsets to become part of the average financial advisor’s toolbox until at least 2020 because the VR industry is still nascent.
“We will have to see more mainstream usage before the financial services industry seriously gets into the game, but technology is moving faster than we think,” he said. “The time is now.”