Friday, 19 October 2007

Belgian Bankers and Blue Pills

The Benelux virtual banking community - in effect, ABN Amro and ING - is now stronger by one more member: Keytrade Bank. I have to say at this point that my knowledge of Belgian banks, until now, has hovered somewhere around the zero mark. But the chance discovery of this island has changed that a little. I don't claim to be a world authority, but at least I've increased the paltry sum of my knowledge.

Keytrade launched into Second Life at the end of September. Their press release informed me: "Keytrade Bank was Belgian’s first 100% Internet bank... We are also the first Belgian bank to become active in Second Life. Our ambition is to bring real value to users all over the globe, not only to Belgian residents of this virtual world." They continue on their website: "Our island in Second Life is to be considered as a field of experimentation for future products and the proof of our will to be at the cutting edge of web-based financial services."

Their first step, aside from having their island constructed by bluepill GROUP, has been to offer visitors a free currency calculator that maintains real-time information on exchange rates between the Linden Dollar and a host of real world currencies. The same device also offers financial news from the Dow Jones Newswires.

The island itself comprises a large, airy, vaguely horseshoe-shaped building that partially encircles a pond. Inside, lifts provide access to smaller meeting rooms, while at the apex of the horseshoe is a circular hub with information displays that, I assume, is intended to resemble a trading floor. Outside there is a zeppelin that you can borrow to explore the island. I like this idea, but the scope here is strictly limited, since there is only the 1 sim to explore, and there is no real complexity in the landscape that might make the zeppelin flight interesting.

Here's the outside:

And the inside:

I lost count of the number of calculator dispensers (illustrated above) inside the building. For those who are still eager for free branded T-shirts, there is a selection available. However, I'm not sure they will have that many takers.

The build quality is high. This is an attractive build, with subtle colour schemes and good, rich textures. However, despite the zeppelin and the calculator, I did not feel engaged with the place. There is no evidence of events (at least, not yet) - nor any obvious location to host them. I suppose I'm saying I did not get a sense of social interaction - it felt a bit austere and aloof to me.

bluepill GROUP, whom I have not encountered before, have surprised me by having contact locations in Barcelona, Bonn and Brussels. It may be safe to assume that it was the last of these that secured the Keytrade business. In existence since 2004, they describe themselves as "a fully specialised metaverse consulting and 3D implementation company focused on understanding and harnessing 3D virtual worlds for Real World Companies." They have an island in Second Life not far from Keytrade - so I think I will pop by to see what's what sometime.

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