Chinese Banks Lead Forays into Metaverse in 2022

27

A slew of Chinese banking institutions unveiled plans to explore the application of the metaverse and virtual reality technology to financial innovations in 2022.

Lu Zhongtao (吕仲涛), chief technology officer for Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), said on 27 November that the metaverse would likely become the “high grounds for the innovative application of smart finance, and help to create financial products and services based on immersive experiences.”

ICBC carries immense clout in the Chinese financial sector, being the largest bank both in China and the world in terms of the scale of its balance sheet.

Shortly after Lu’s public statements another big state-owned lender, Bank of China (BOC), applied for a patent for a “Pharmaceutical Sales Method and Installation Based on the Metaverse” (基于元宇宙的药品销售方法及装置) on 23 December, prompting speculation that bank could be planning a foray into both metaverse development and the online pharmaceutical retail sector.

The big state-owned lenders are far from the only banks in China exploring the potential of the metaverse when it comes to financial innovations.

On 22 November China Everbright Bank’s published a report on digital payments and innovations, highlighting the potential for “digital technological innovations including the metaverse to create new payments scenarios, and become a huge space for the development of digital services that improve convenience.”

On 8 December Huaxia Bank’s human resources chief Gao Bo (高波) said that the lender would “increase digital employees and research into cutting-edge technologies including the metaverse and NFTs.”

Gao pointed in particular to the potential for the metaverse to “strengthen the actual experiences of clients in digital environments, achieve reciprocal exchange between the real world and virtual worlds, and raise the level of services experiences across multiple vectors.”

Smaller municipal lenders are also at the forefront of efforts to incorporate the metaverse into the provision of innovative financial services. In January 2022, Bank of Jiangsu announced plans to actively launch a financial “metaverse,” while Zheshang Bank commenced cooperation with China Mobile to explore the financial applications of the metaverse.