Student shortlisted for £5,000 prize hopes to transform banking with virtual reality

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UWE Student Nominated for Prize A student from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) has been shortlisted in a competition which calls on young people to help crack some of the financial sector’s biggest digital challenges.

Santander invited students and recent graduates from across the country to submit ideas outlining how technology could be used to transform the banking experience for customers in the future.

One of 13 entrants shortlisted for a prize in the Big Ideas challenge is UWE Bristol masters student Thomas Cottrell, who has developed a creative way of using virtual reality in banking.

The 24-year-old student on the university’s MSc Finance course hopes his idea can improve transparency between customers and banks, helping rebuild trust in the banking industry.

He said: “The biggest problem at the moment between banks and customers is that the general public essentially do not trust that banks are interested in the wellbeing of their customers. Even industry professionals estimate that it will be a decade before public trust in banks returns to where it was before the financial crisis.

“My idea is to add value to the way Santander staff interact with customers by helping the relationship to be founded upon trust. The specific way this will be achieved will be by making the process of dealing with Santander more transparent, and more engaging.

“By using an exciting augmented reality interface to make financial data come alive through a number of intuitive visualisations, customer and staff will find that decisions are made in a way that is clearly beneficial to the customer. The visualisations and financial models are so easy to use and understand that all customers, even those with no financial expertise, can feel that they are actively participating in their finances and can clearly see that what kind of deal they are getting.

“These kinds of models are very versatile, and can be made to work in branch and at home. For instance, as well as being used to talk someone through their options for a mortgage application in a branch, by putting the software directly into the Santander App, customers could use the process to make visualisations of their finances and financial planning right on their kitchen table.

“By being the most transparent bank at the point of contact with the customer, Santander can get a head start on the long road to earning back the trust of the public.”

Shriti Vadera, Santander’s UK chairman, said the competition was recognition that young people were often better with technology than their older peers.

The contest asked students to tackle challenges including semantic search, allowing bank staff to access customer information more quickly; digital authentication, ensuring online transactions are secure; and the incorporation of virtual reality into financial services.

Prizes of up to £5,000 are on offer for the best ideas, with Santander also looking to help entrants develop their proposals into solutions that could be commercialised.

The judging and awards ceremony will be held at a grand final on Monday (March 21) at Santander’s head office in London, where the winners will be announced.

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