Technology replaces schmoozing: the future of private banking

Thu May 28, 2015 2:00am EDT
 
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By Joshua Franklin

ZURICH (Reuters) - No longer is schmoozing over long lunches and fine wines enough; Swiss private bankers are turning to video games and virtual reality to attract a new generation of skeptical clients and see off digital rivals.

Technology is likely to appeal to multi-tasking millionaires with little time to spare. However, wealth managers must also win the trust of younger investors who have experienced two downturns during their formative years plus a furor over Swiss banks' involvement in tax evasion.

In a fifth floor office just off Zurich's main shopping street, researchers at UBS UBSG.VX are testing dozens of technologies to see what could make the world's biggest wealth manager more appealing as fortunes pass to the next generation.

"How do you get under the skin of clients today, because they often work on their mobiles and they manage their wealth in their spare time," said Dave Bruno, head of UBS's innovation lab. "It might be in the bathroom, it might be waiting for a flight."

Bruno and his team are designing video games, including a prototype puzzle for iPads and smartphones, and looking at virtual reality simulations to help people visualize what are often complex investment portfolios.

They are also working on technologies that allow clients to log into their accounts using their voice patterns and facial features, doing away with the time consuming and frustrating need to answer security questions.

UBS has opened a second research lab in London and plans another for Singapore later this year. It is also exchanging ideas with financial technology start-ups as well as Google (GOOGL.O: Quote) and Amazon (AMZN.O: Quote).

  Continued...

 
An employee works at the innovation lab of Swiss bank UBS in Zurich January 16, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/Files