December 17, 2013

Few banks, particularly in the U.S., have begun using gamification in their digital interactions with customers, but globally the concept is gaining ground, according to a study on innovation and gamification in banking by Infosys . The study surveyed 160 banks around the world, and while only 9% of them had implemented some form of gamification, another 35% said they have plans in the next two years to adopt gamification.

"Banks are starting to see gamification as a path to online innovation," says Rajashekhara Maiya, associate vice president and principal of Finacle Product Strategy at Infosys. "Right now the foremost barrier [to the adoption of gamification for banks is their legacy IT systems, which are preventing any innovation. They don't have the necessary technical abilities or scalability."

But some banks are leveraging partnerships with small startups and IT companies to address this challenge, according to Maiya, and are experimenting with some interesting use cases.

For instance, Hana Bank in South Korea, which won a BAI award for innovation this year, gamified elements of its online and mobile statements so customers could play with their spending categories and get more detailed information, Maiya shares.

Another bank in Singapore put more than 150 screens in two of their branches that customers can use to design their own personalized credit card, Maiya adds. The bank also introduced a savings account that parents share with their children and includes online games that kids can play to learn about personal financial management. The children earn points through the game that can be donated to a charity.

Most of the interest in gamification from banks is being driven by the perceived threat of new non-bank entities entering the market, Maiya notes. The Infosys study asked banks what they consider their biggest threat going forward, and disintermediation of customers to new startups averaged a 3.8 on a scale of 7 among the respondents, with telcos and internet comapnies like Google perceived as an even greater threat.

"Banks are trying to build back trust and confidence with their customers. They can use gamification to spread awareness and financial education to their customers," Maiya explains. "The banks want to get in on this for customer retention."

[Check Out Our Slideshow: 5 Banks Leading the Way in Gamification]

U.S. institutions, however, seem less interested in the concept of gamification than banks in other parts of the world.

"While the rest of the world, specifically Sout East Asia, is investing in gamification… we have yet to see the investments form banks on gamification in the North American market, barring one or two exceptions," Maiya says/

Oneof those exceptions is Grow Financial, a credit union in Tampa Bay, Florida that installed a game console outside one of its branches in an attempt to gain more foot traffic at the branch. Customers and pedestrians passing by can play games on the console that teach them about the credit union's products and helps spread awareness about its offerings.

In the not-so-distant future a whole market will emerge in the technology sector around gamification, with increased spending from the providers of gamification capabilities on developers, Maiya predicts.

"This won't just be limited to banks. The telcos are going to get in on this, and will invest in expanding their bandwidth to support gamification. Handset providers will enable new user experiences based on gamification. And banks will find ways to extend gamification to real accounts and transactions. Everybody stands to make a good amount of money in this," he explains.

With that prospect it might be hard for U.S. banks to sit on the sideline for much longer and delay experimenting with this growing concept.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jonathan Camhi is a graduate of the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism, where he focused on international reporting and interned at the Hindustan Times in Delhi, ...