If you’d thought the nebulous concept of the metaverse had ceased to attract interest as the macroeconomic vice tightens, check this out. Some 91% of Australian banking executives surveyed are “hedging their bets” on it for carbon reduction.

What the? Really? Yep, according to a new report called Metaverse Benchmark for Banking, commissioned by Mobiquity and conducted by Censuswide. (The report also, by the way, focuses on the US, UK and the Netherlands.)

And not only are nine in 10 Aussie banks surveyed keen on exploring the metaverse for this reason, more than half of them (55%) have apparently put their foot on the gas (admittedly a counterintuitive metaphor) and are investing in metaverse-based technologies. The remaining majority (39%), meanwhile, have confirmed intent to do so.

“Metaverse-based technologies”, eh? Hmm… scratches chin… we’re hoping it’s the crypto-based, open-sourced, decentralised side of metaverse technologies they’re talking about, and not the walled-gardened metaversal vision of Sweet Baby Ray’s flogger Mark Zuckerberg.

That said, we’re talking banks here, so walls will obviously need to be factored in somewhere.


But how can the metaverse reduce banks’ carbon footprint?

That’s the billion-dollar question. And at the moment, the answer would have to be: it can’t.

According to the report, despite optimism from Australian banks for positive metaversal energy-reducing solutions, that also comes with an element of doubt at this point.

Almost three quarters (67%) of Australian banking executives reportedly believe the platform may have negative consequences on their carbon footprint. However, more than eight in ten (84%) already have plans in place to address the environmental impact of the metaverse’s energy needs.

So what’s behind the tree-hugging optimistic side of this slightly confusing equation?

Gustavo Quiroga, General Manager for Mobiquity in APAC had some answers, raising the premise that the metaverse creates a “new world of potential” for banks and financial institutions to not only meet sustainability initiatives, but also enhance customer experience beyond the usual means (phone, internet, er, walking into an actual branch).

“The metaverse provides a unique opportunity for banks and financial institutions to become greener by decreasing their carbon footprint with new processes and services in a virtual realm,” said Quiroga.

“The obvious use case here is looking into how banks and financial institutions can streamline the flow of identity verification that customers are repeatedly asked to provide.

“If processes such as this were digitised through a vetted data system, such as self-sovereign identity, it would help eliminate physical information processing and the carbon impact associated with such operations,” explained the Mobiquity exec.

He did caveat, however, that if the metaverse experience proves to be no better than the banking experiences currently in existence, then “we will never see a mass adoption of the metaverse”.

It’s a balancing act to get ESG right when it comes to metaverse banking, explained Quiroga and it “holds the future of the metaverse at stake” he said. Which somehow sounds like a snippet of George Lucas-written dialogue.


Which banks are we talking about?

While not providing specifics, the report reveals that it’s the smaller banks across Australia that are adopting metaverse tech over larger institutions at this stage.

It suggests this is largely due to their smaller infrastructure, fewer employees, and simpler bureaucracy, which makes it easier to adopt and implement metaverse initiatives with minimal business disruption.

That said, one of the Big Four, ANZ Banking Group, has recently signalled its interest in the metaverse.

As reported by iTnews, ANZ is making tentative metaverse exploration, treading a cautious line for now as it would like some “really key questions” answered. Presumably before figuring out a wacky cartoon animal avatar and tip-toeing further into the space.

Speaking during an Infosys and Trans-Tasman Business Circle panel, ANZ banking services lead Nigel Dobson said the metaverse is a network that “traditional supporters of the digital economy like banks should be planning for”.

The metaverse is “just an exponential version of what’s already happening on the internet”, he added, with “technology leading regulation”, creating “a classic problem we’ve been trying to catch up with and deal with for many decades now”.