Milano & Finanza | November 2022

When it comes to financial consultancy – as any other vital connection – personal relationships can hardly be replaced by avatars or virtual environments.

Human relations play a fundamental role in certifying the skills of people and, in particular, of asset management professionals – the relationship between teacher and student, client and financial professional, financial professional and bank/financial network.

Moreover, people represent a key factor in encouraging financial professionals to increase their skills, to certify and give them value through their relationships with clients, within a recursive process based on trust and knowledge.

The interest in the Metaverse has increased significantly during the pandemic, when social distancing and the lockdown generated a strong need for proximity and interaction between individuals, albeit physically distant.

Some believe that, in 2026, at least one person out of four will spend at least one hour a day in the Metaverse, whose global market is expected to exceed one trillion dollars over the next 3 years.

While the definition of its potential rules and scenarios is still in progress, the financial and banking worlds cannot help but considering the Metaverse one of the key factors in their strategies. In fact, Italian leading banks and financial networks are currently examining and implementing their landing on the Metaverse.

Would it be reasonable, then, to envisage an interaction between client-bank-advisor? Or is it mere fantasy? How would it work? And who would its potential users be? What threats or opportunities should financial advisors expect?

In order to provide an answer to these question, FINER Finance Explorer conducted a survey for EFPA, involving 5.570 financial professionals (Financial Advisors and Private Bankers) and 9.710 end investors (affluent, upper affluent and private clients).

The survey revealed that the Metaverse can attract new generations of clients, as it offers opportunities for growth that the real world, limited as it is by the availability of resources, cannot offer anymore. People born between 1980 and 2005 are expected to use the Metaverse as a place to shop, interacting through their digital identity.

However, in Italy wealth is still in the hands of boomers (born between 1940 and 1964). Therefore, it is important to understand that future opportunities need to be seized both to defend the market shares and to attract new generations.

The average age of private and HNW clients in Italy is 70 years old and it shows no signs of decreasing. Over 60% of the most affluent people owe their wealth to a family business which, on average, has reached the fourth generation.

Today, only 22% of end investors know what the Metaverse is: among them, the most knowledgeable are private clients (27%) and 40-year-old people (34%). Their knowledge comes mostly from their user experience in fields unrelated to the financial world: entertainment (33%), gaming (29%), education (19%).

The use of the Metaverse in the field of finance is expected to vary depending on the generation of both financial professionals and their clients. 41% of 40-year-old Financial Advisors and Private Bankers envisage the Metaverse as a possible means of interaction with clients; 37% of 40-year-old clients agree with this hypothesis.

Both clients (85%) and financial professionals (89%) believe that today financial consultancy should be based exclusively on in-person interactions, rather than being mediated by digital platforms.

However, 64% of financial professionals and 66% of clients would be willing to know more about the topic and envisage an informational and educational use of the Metaverse.

The sensational fall of Meta, which lost 75% of its stock market value over just a few weeks and which will leave behind over 11.000 employees, is a clear sign that personal relations cannot be replaced by an avatar.

Nicola Ronchetti