Excitement about the industry's most recent buzzword is spreading rapidly to the financial sector.

Nick Wood

January 18, 2022

4 Min Read
Metaverse VR

Excitement about the industry’s most recent buzzword is spreading rapidly to the financial sector.

KT Corp on Tuesday struck a wide-ranging digital services deal with Shinhan Bank, one that covers everything from AI and blockchain to converged telecom and financial services. To cement their relationship, the Korean telco has agreed to pay KRW437.5 billion (£269 million) for a 2.08 percent stake in Shinhan’s parent, Shinhan Financial Group.

“We expect to introduce various financial DX (digital experience) models based on synergies with Korea’s top financial groups and largest digital platform companies. We will open a new paradigm for DX growth,” said Park Jong-wook, head of KT’s business planning division, in a statement.

Depending how this partnership goes, KT said it will use it as a reference project to help it establish a global platform business in an effort win similar deals further afield.

Fairly high up in the release is a section about how the companies plan to align their metaverse activities. KT said it plans to integrate Shinhan’s financial infrastructure into its metaverse platform, allowing users to earn rewards when they transact with third-party brands and partners. It will also offer a portal to Shinhan’s own metaverse platform and vice versa.

KT and Shinhan are also exploring the possibility of launching a commercial real estate service in the metaverse. Details are scant, but presumably it could mean prospective tenants being able to take a look at a digital version of a property, or that they could use augmented reality to overlay an in-person viewing with useful information about the neighbourhood and various costs, like maintenance fees and energy bills and so on. Either way, the metaverse element of the tie-up will doubtless go down well with Korea’s Science and ICT ministry, which last year created the Metaverse Alliance to encourage cross-industry collaboration on virtual and augmented reality platforms.

AI also features prominently in the agreement. KT Corp has been working hard on natural language processing (NLP) to underpin its AI contact centre (AICC) solution. A company can use AICC to help direct their human customer service reps to the right solution, or as an entirely automated contact centre that handles interactions with end users all on its own. Under the deal with Shinhan, KT hopes to develop an AICC solution that incorporates the bank’s data in an effort to improve productivity and enhance customer interaction.

They’re not stopping there. KT and Shinhan also want to store various electronic documents and certificates on a blockchain. Again, they don’t explain why, but presumably it is to reduce the number of hoops that customers have to jump through in order to prove they have permission to access these documents. The two companies are also mulling launching a digital asset exchange, which would let customers trade in various tokens, including NFTs.

In addition, KT and Shinhan have agreed to use big data as the basis for a range of converged financial and telecom services for SMEs. One idea KT is exploring is to use its location data, to develop an alternative credit-scoring model.

If that wasn’t enough, KT has also agreed to upgrade Shinhan’s ‘Digilog’ branch. Introduced last year, the aim of Digilog is to do away with the stark, clinical experience of visiting a bank and introduce a less formal setting more akin to a lounge or a cafe, where customers can try out various digital services and get advice from bank employees. The operator plans to take it a step further, allowing customers to interact with AI-based assistants and robots, as well as a media wall.

As an example of a telco expanding beyond connectivity goes, this is about as comprehensive as it gets. And what’s more, it isn’t the only one from KT Corp this week. Yonhapreported on Tuesday that the operator has also done a deal with Russian Internet giant Yandex’s Self-Driving Group. Under the deal, KT will help with the development of autonomous delivery robots. Yandex SDG is already on its third iteration, which incorporates cameras, sensors and AI to help it navigate busy pavements, traffic and uneven terrain to deliver payloads of up to 20 kilograms. The two companies aim to develop and launch a new model this year.

They have also established a joint taskforce in an effort to identify other areas of collaboration. If the Shinhan Bank deal is anything to go by, that taskforce will have no trouble coming up with a few ideas.


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About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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