Fidelity tests virtual reality simulators for new employees

Fidelity Investments announced Tuesday it has piloted a virtual reality experience into its remote onboarding program for new employees to interact and engage with each other despite barriers, like physical location, in a creative way.  

The piloted program run by the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology provided virtual reality headsets, or a head-mounted device widely used for video game simulations, for more than 140 employees as part of their remote onboarding to replace Fidelity’s traditional in-person training program in May. 

This virtual reality pilot program was Fidelity’s first use-case in a training and onboarding environment and participants were all part of the Fidelity YOU program — Year One University — ranging from recent graduates to tenured employees within Fidelity new to operations, according to the company’s announcement

Fidelity didn’t disclose if the piloted program would eventually roll out for all new employees, but the virtual reality experience has the possibility to become scalable for future use with new hires and across business units at Fidelity, according to a company spokesperson. 

Designed to enhance new employee engagement, users created their own avatars and participated in scavenger hunts and word games, teleporting between indoor and outdoor environments to familiarize themselves with technology and socialize with fellow trainees, according to the company’s announcement. Employees could even practice their elevator pitch in real-time and receive feedback from others in the virtual room.

In addition to adding gamification to the new employee training process, participants were able to test an experimental Retirement Readiness tool, which helps clients understand the key factors in retirement planning and helps them visualize where they are on their retirement planning journey. Employees also viewed examples of virtual reality training modules used to train customer service employees on empathy.

“The virtual reality pilot program was a practical way to solve for an immediate need,” said Adam Schouela, head of emerging technology at FCAT. “The virtual reality 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.”

The market volatility spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic has caused Fidelity to ramp up digital experiences for its investor and adviser network, too, as digital adoption rates continue to accelerate. 

In a separate announcement Tuesday, Fidelity dropped July results from its Financial Advisor Community COVID Series survey. Notably, results from the survey revealed 41% of adviser firms are developing formal, firm-wide digital strategies during the pandemic, while 44% have developed a formal digital client experience strategy during the pandemic or plan to do so over the next two years.

Moreover, the technologies with the highest current use are CRM platforms (82% of advisers), financial planning platforms (78%) online client portals (66%). More than half of advisers said that their CRM platforms and online client portals became more valuable during the pandemic.

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