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Fidelity Goes for Fun With Virtual-Reality Tool

November 20, 2014

Ever wished you could don a virtual-reality headset and look at a bunch of skyscrapers that represent a stock portfolio? No, huh? Well, Fidelity is betting you’ll be game soon enough.

The custodian and discount brokerage just released StockCity, which lets investors do exactly that. They can use the tool on Oculus Rift, an experimental headset for video gamers that’s still in beta testing, or online via Google Chrome.

StockCity remains in experimental mode and is bound to change, according to a blog on the Fidelity Labs website. It portrays an equity portfolio as an urban landscape, where a building’s height represents its share price, its depth represents 90-day trading volume and its width represents shares outstanding. When markets are open, it’s daytime in the virtual city. When markets are closed, it’s nighttime. Sunshine indicates a rising stock market, and rain indicates a falling market. “Our StockCity is a unique 3D environment that allows you to process financial information easily, without ever seeing a single number or percentage,” says a relaxing voice-over during the demo on Fidelity Labs’ site.

In the future, the tool may evolve drastically, the blog posits. Street-level traffic may one day show trading activity, birds reminiscent of a Twitter logo may show social-media buzz, and the view into building windows may show the components of a mutual fund.

Back in 2007, Wells Fargo took a similar approach with Stagecoach Island, the New York Post reports. It was a financial game on the Second Life Web portal, which itself failed to become the simulated-living phenomenon many expected at the time. The Post compares Fidelity’s StockCity to something out of The Matrix, a sci-fi movie franchise starring Keanu Reeves.

One might ask why Fidelity did this and why it matters to advisors. According to InvestmentNews, discount brokers need to pay attention to consumer-facing technology, which could affect commission-based trading. Fidelity spends $2.5 billion a year on technology, the article reports. Moreover, last year, Fidelity clients executed 403,000 commission-based trades on an average day, mostly through its discount brokerage arm.

As for why advisors should care, the headset version is fun and “oddly thrilling,” according to an article on Money.com. So if the tech catches on, younger clients may well start asking advisors about investing trends they noticed in a virtual city. In other words, don’t rest on your digital laurels if your practice recently launched a mobile website. There’s a lot more to come.

By Chris Latham
  • To read the New York Post article cited in this story, click here.
  • To read the Money.com article cited in this story, click here.
  • To read the InvestmentNews article cited in this story, click here (free registration required).