By Patricia B. Mirasol, Reporter

CUSTOMERS expect instant gratification from services, be it in finance or other sectors. Because service delivery mechanisms are changing, finance is moving towards a 24/7 model, and the metaverse is going be a part of it, said an expert at IBM’s “The Future of Finance” forum.

“People expect an intuitive and seamless integration of their lives… Whether it’s the storefront or the web, you’re expected as a company to deliver service across all experiences,” said Tuhina Singh, CEO and co-founder of Propine, a Singapore-based licensed digital asset custodian.

“Metaverse is going to change the financial industry, but it will also change everything. Imagine this entire physical world, and then [imagine] a digital world, and you being able to transcend [both worlds] seamlessly,” she said.

Banks in countries launching digital currencies will be able to tap the metaverse “a lot quicker,” said Balagopal Ravibalan, senior principal for solution consulting at SunTec Business Solutions, a relationship-based pricing and billing company headquartered in Kerala.

About 100 countries are actively evaluating central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), the International Monetary Fund said in February. CBDCs are electronic cash that create a direct connection between consumers and a central bank and are pegged to a country’s currency.

Countries where CBDCs have already been launched include the Bahamas and Nigeria. Meanwhile, countries that are already developing CBDCs include the United States and India.

“The options are limited for now, but… in the future, as we see more of an impetus in that direction, banking in the metaverse is going to be a reality,” he said. “Not today, but by 2030 or beyond that.”

Banks are “obviously cautiously optimistic” when they talk to media, but in a March 2021 World Economic Forum attended by banks from all over the world, Ms. Singh said what was discussed was the ongoing digitization of every aspect of our lives.

“The question on the table was, ‘What are the different models to go from point A to point B?’… This was every single bank in the world,” she told the participants of the roundtable discussion. “It’s very instructive for us to know where we are all headed.”

The metaverse is another channel that can facilitate interactions between people at a different level, said Juan Madera, the financial services sector leader for ASEAN at International Business Machines (IBM) Consulting.

“It can be a very interesting proposition for non-tangible assets like art or music,” he told BusinessWorld in a separate interview.

“We are not constrained by any channel,” added Mr. Madera. “Our clients tend to be ubiquitous, and therefore we have to support them in that aspect.”

Mark Zuckerberg, whose company Meta is building the metaverse, is betting that this virtual environment where users can work, socialize and play, will be the successor to the internet.