Global financial services firm Fidelity Investments is pressing ahead with research into the effectiveness of training in VR after a successful pilot programme involving more than 140 employees
➨ FCAT, the US-headquartered firm’s research and development arm, has been investigating VR for some time, with a proof of concept for retirement readiness already under development
➨ Covid-19 prompted Fidelity to pilot VR for networking, with employees based in multiple locations and on an internal training programme unable to participate in person
➨ The experience allowed participants to connect in a virtual meeting space as an avatar and get to know one another, while exploring and engaging with digital technology
More than 140 employees used VR as part of their remote onboarding at Fidelity Investments in May, as the global financial services firm accelerated research into immersive technology as a means for training and educating its workforce.
The Fidelity Center for Applied Technology (FCAT), the US-headquartered firm’s research and development arm, has been investigating VR for some time, with a proof of concept for retirement readiness already under development.
Covid-19 prompted Fidelity to pilot VR for networking, with employees based in multiple locations and on an internal training programme unable to participate in person.
Fidelity’s experience allowed participants to connect in a virtual meeting space as an avatar and get to know one another, while exploring and engaging with digital technology.
Adam Schouela, head of emerging technology at FCAT, described the VR pilot programme as “a practical way to solve for an immediate need”.
Schouela continued: “Fidelity had been prepared to work remotely—we moved nearly our entire workforce to their homes, in just a week or so—and we were looking to build on and improve that experience. The VR headsets allowed employees to create deeper connections across teams and site locations, in a more human way than if the training were entirely on a video call.”
As part of the VR experience, participants engaged in scavenger hunts and word games, teleporting between indoor and outdoor environments to familiarise themselves with the immersive technology and socialise with fellow trainees.
They also practised their ‘elevator pitch’ in real-time and received feedback from others in the room.
Starr Redic, a financial operations senior associate who participated, said: “While wearing the headset during virtual classes, I had the ability to block out my physical world and become completely immersed in collaborating with my peers.”
“It was extremely refreshing to interact with others while overcoming barriers, such as a physical location, in a creative way.”
Participating employees also tested FCAT’s Retirement Readiness tool, which helps clients understand the key factors in retirement planning, as well as visualise where they are on their retirement planning journey.
They also viewed examples of VR training modules used to train customer service employees on empathy. The training gives participants a view into the life of a client and the call situations they may experience in an effort to improve their handling of the call.
This virtual reality pilot programme was Fidelity’s first use case in a training and onboarding environment.
In April, Schouela revealed that FCAT has tested a range of third-party VR software products to research and compare effective approaches, and has brought in VR software specialists, user experience designers, researchers, computer animators and customer-facing Fidelity associates to work on various aspects of the project.
Schouela wrote in April: “Fidelity has acquired a wealth of knowledge regarding the VR production process by vetting use cases through development to deployment. Perhaps the most significant takeaway is that while the work is difficult, it is worth it.”
“Guiding the team as it develops its modules are design principles that are emerging in conjunction with the technology itself: namely, that a VR experience should appeal to a wide audience.”