Finance is already in the metaverse
Ever since Mark Zuckerberg changed the name of Facebook to Meta, the idea of the metaverse has continued to grow. But the seed already existed. Technology gurus have been working for years to build the metaverse, a limitless digital universe where they claim we will do most of the vital transactions. Faced with the business opportunity, financial institutions have already begun to conquer this new virgin world.
Everything related to the metaverse sounds like science fiction, because it is, in fact, born of the science fiction that programmers, hackers and technology tycoons love so much. The first time we read the word “metaverse” —a universe outside the universe— was in the cult novel Snow Crush (2010) by Neal Stephenson, who has publicly dismissed the way his idea is being used.
In this apocalyptic dystopia, the author imagines an internet world that is a single infinite highway, owned by a company called Global Multimedia Protocol Group. In this virtual state, users raise buildings in the shape and size they want, they transact without restraint and they themselves are embodied in impossible avatars. The only limit is the imagination.
The birth of a new world
Today, social networks and platforms are still incipient experiments that lead us irremediably towards this metaverse. But what does it really need to be? According to the experts, it needs to have four characteristics. The first is persistence, i.e. the new parallel universe must be like life itself, never ending and never restarting. Second, a massive scale of socialisation. Thirdly, an immersive technology that engineers are still not quite able to fine-tune and which they seem to want to introduce with virtual reality glasses. And finally, a real digital economy to sustain it.
It is in this sense that Mark Zuckerberg, after the very serious violations of the right to privacy that have taken him to court, aspires to lead and direct this new metaverse. In fact, for months now, rumours —the ‘New York Times’, without going any further, has echoed them— claim that Zuckerberg has already held talks with the big names in the American administration to make himself pardoned and to make them understand the geopolitical importance of the project.
We need to understand the context in which the idea of the metaverse is growing, because at least three battles are being fought at the same time. The first is undoubtedly the hegemony of the United States in a possible global crisis, as 11Onze’s Chairman, James Sène, explains. The second is the climate crisis: on a planet increasingly depleted of natural resources, the infinite possibilities of a metaverse are a fertile field for business. And the third is the struggle between the classic governmental structure of banking and the decentralised but equally predatory alternative proposed by the world of cryptocurrencies.
The universal conquest of finance
This is how companies, entrepreneurs, governments —the Catvers presented by the Generalitat is a good example of this obsession— and financial institutions have launched themselves into the conquest of the metaverse. According to a Bloomberg report, this new digital environment is currently worth 500 billion dollars.
From the world of finance, the first to give its unconditional support is Jefferies. Its Global Head of Thematic Research, Simon Powell, has stated that the metaverse will be “the biggest disruption” that humanity will experience in centuries. The other major banking group that has not been long in coming is Goldman Sachs, which points out that the blockchain will be the “fundamental technology” of the new metaverse. In this sense, its Managing Director, Rod Hall, has assured that in the new metaverse it will be necessary to identify the ownership of each asset very well and that this represents an opportunity for any financial institution.
The other big bank that is betting on this is Bank of America, which has already begun to train employees in its 4,300 centres in the United States in virtual reality. The bank’s Research Director, Haim Israel, has stated that cryptocurrencies can find in the metaverse an “opportunity” to become massive. It seems that traditional banks are beginning to realise the potential of cryptocurrencies and are willing to co-opt their structure, which until now has been growing on its own.
The bet is so strong that some banks, such as Korea’s IBK and KB Kookmin Bank, are already looking to work directly in the metaverse. IBK has reached an agreement with Cyworld, a Korean social networking platform that has its own cryptocurrency, Dotori, to launch financial products for its users. And in Spain, according to ‘Cinco Días’, the major financial institutions have already begun to test formulas and products just for the new digital world. The conquest of the metaverse by the financial sector is now unchecked.