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Bank of America uses virtual reality to train its bank tellers on how to handle robberies, as well as dozens of other skills.  

Creating teachable moments in virtual reality can lead to immersive, focused, and memorable training programs for bank employees, which are ultimately more effective than the status quo.

Bank of America has ditched written guidelines and online videos for some of its most crucial employee trainings. 

Instead, the bank uses virtual reality technology to immerse employees in 3D environments where they can practice skills and build knowledge in real-time.  

For example, one of the bank’s training modules mimics a bank robbery, where employees must respond to having a gun pointed at them or being passed a threatening note demanding money. They’re coached and then given the opportunity to act out the scenario in VR.  

VR trainings offer an immersion, focus, and emotional resonance that’s rarely achieved through text or video-based curriculums. 

“When you’re in VR and you’ve got someone pointing a weapon at you or screaming at you, asking you to do something, it’s somewhat duplicating that feeling that you would have in real life, because of the level of immersion,” Bank of America SVP Mike Wynn told Insights Distilled. “I want someone to feel a little anxious or a little nervous in a fake environment, because I don’t want them to feel that way for the first time if it ever happens to them. That’s why VR is so powerful as a modality, because it gets you to feel as if you’re in that moment, so that you can develop some level of muscle memory.” 

As a measure of the success of the trainings, Bank of America has seen a significant drop in 911 calls by its bank tellers, because they’ve learned how to deescalate situations more effectively than before.   

BofA launched its first VR training course in 2020 and now has 19 types of VR modules, including executive trainings, interviewing courses, empathy-building exercises, and practical instructionals for processes like opening or closing a bank branch.  

The bank works with an ever-evolving group of hardware and software partners, Wynn said, as it vies to provide the most comfortable experience possible for its employees. (On the hardware side, Apple made a splash Monday when it announced its first VR headset.) 

Other banks have crafted their own experiments with the metaverse, too: Sociéte Générale and Deutsche Bank host client presentations in virtual reality, while BNP Paribas lets its users check their account activity and transaction records in VR.  

“I think we’re still just scratching the surface of how we can leverage VR to give people a very different experience, whether it’s exploring how we use it for mental health or collaborative team experiences,” Wynn said. “There’s so much more that can be done.”