To gamify or not to gamify


I have always dismissed gamification in financial services, in part because I did not get it, in part because I thought the sole purpose of gamification was engaging younger generations thusly concluding it would only be a fad. I have come to revise my judgement.  Here is the thinking that led me to such change of mind.

In a 2001 online census in the United Kingdom, close to 390,000 participants declared themselves to be of the Jedi “religion”. That was approximately 0.7% of the population at the time, and I bet the number would be higher if one were to run the same online census today and in other countries than the UK. Movies such as Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit trilogy, Avatar to name a few, are targeted towards adults, not children only.  In the past 20 years there has been an explosion of video games targeted to adults.  Playing, games, play, seem to be ever more central to our lives, especially in the fantasy form.  Why is that?

To be clear, playing has always been important to human beings and games have been promoted and tolerated as they were viewed as a means to control the plebe (the games in ancient Rome) or censured as a dangerous escapade (organized Religion in general).  With the advent of technology, personal computers, video graphics and high speed internet, individuals appropriated a gaming sphere that met their human aspirations – to play, to feel alive, to believe in someone or something outside of reality – and their contextual needs – to escape a reality of economic pressure, unemployment and alienation, an all to depressing reality. In a way playing a computer game, or “believing” in a movie set in a fantasy land allows the participant to put his/her faith in the unrealistic fact that a roll of the dice may abolish chance. We know that we play and we forget that we play.  I personally ascribe to Stéphane Mallarmé’s famous words: “A roll of the dice will never abolish chance”.  Still if we accept the above explanations as having validity and in explaining the growth of games and playing in our lives as adults, then gamification provides intriguing value propositions to the financial services industry. To the extent gamification elicits a mindful and engaged response from customers the value proposition increases accordingly.

I see 4 mains vectors where gamification can be applied:

1) To achieve better Education:
– educating consumers or customers with a goal to changing behaviors
– educating employees about consumers, customers with a goal to better service consumers
– training of employees across a variety of processes

2) To foster further Engagement:
– via fun and interactive UI/UX
– by fostering non traditional experiences

3) In supporting a purchase trigger:
– via Education, see above
– via better Engagement, see above

4) In increasing Revenue:
– as a gateway to real services and products
– as part of the “free” in a freemium service

I certainly have changed my views on gamification and believe its value is demonstrable and should be embedded when and where appropriate. Retail banking, wealth management, insurance come to mind as benefitting from gamification. Indeed many banks have added gamification components to their online products already. I am not sure I am ready to invest in a pure play gamification business model though. Care to change my mind?






Pascal Bouvier

Life and work experiences have given Pascal an unmatched vantage point, seeing things as both venture capitalist and aspiring entrepreneur. He currently is a Venture Partner with Santander Innoventures – Santander Group’s Global Fintech fund.

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