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MyFinancialsTypical financial services platforms such as e-Trade, Charles Schwab, or Ameritrade offer a lot of value to manage your financial investments. With charts, tickers, and news about the markets savvy financial investors can manage and monitor their wealth through a variety of sophisticated tools. This has been a boon for investors but turns into a big hurdle for the less financially savvy amongst us. As it turns out, 80% of the users of such platforms are men. This does not represent the income distribution in modern countries. At the same time the strength of these platforms is their biggest weakness.

Those platforms typically offer a very technical look at investing and saving. The focus is on the financial institutions such as stock exchanges and banks, financial instruments such as CDs, bonds, savings accounts, mixed with a lot of three- to four letter acronyms, numbers, rates and historic charts. This is intimidating for the uninitiated. Instead of coming from a "technical perspective," in a recent customer project, we turned the angle around and look from a story perspective.

The first change is that not the stock exchange of the financial services instrument is in the focus, but rather the financial goal that an average investor has. And with investor we mean everyone who has a financial goal to reach. Such a financial goal can be saving for retirement, saving for the first hours, or the big dream wedding.

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RabobankWhen you think about banks, then the word serious would immediately strike your mind. But certainly not in the context of "serious games," but "serious business." This is about to change, as the case of the Dutch Rabobank with assets of €771bn and a profit of €1.3bn is demonstrating.

Gamification has become an important strategy in how banking business is done, both internally for employees and externally for clients. Maarten Molenar, project manager for the Rabobank Gamification Hub, is the driver and evangelist behind the gamification strategy for this cooperative bank conglomerate that operates in over 48 countries and employees nearly 60,000 people.

Rabobank as one of the largest and oldest banking cooperations in the world has been doing serious games in the past to promote the bank at TV shows and for young clients of the future (the 8-16 year old) - including the cooperative game World Food Game which was an experiment in gamified co-creation with young people. With the raise of gamification and the fact that analyst companies like Gartner, Ovum, or M2 Research started to talk about that concept, this has sparked even more interest at Rabobank.

When Maarten began investigating this topic, he found colleagues who also had used gamification techniques without knowing it. So he started an internal virtual network and assembled gamifiers and colleagues interested in the topic, sharing with them knowledge and activities, as well as keeping them informed by a regular newsletter. This newsletter has become a way to better explain the topic and the intentions that Maarten has, as sometimes people think everything will be turned into a game.

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While in the first part of this series we looked at B2C-scenarios, the second part on governments, we finally turn to B2B and employee scenarios in the financial services industry.

B2B and Employee scenarios

The Canadian game studio Rocketfuel Games launched in late 2012 an education game for teens and college students on – accounting. Yes, accounting. If you know teens at this age, you know that they’d rather sit through a lecture from their parents and grandparents telling them what they didn’t have when they were young and how spoiled the young generation is. Anything is better than studying accounting. That did not discourage the game studio. They took a new spin on it by creating a narrative on accounting. Instead of sober examples around some fictitious company, the accounting student works for a mob boss. Revenue from shakeups, bribes, alcohol money are tallied against expenses for guns, funerals, and other typical mob related activities. Here is where the fun motivator “Being a Villain“ changes young people’s interest in accounting.

There certainly are not many employees, who like entering data after data after data. Vendor invoices are no exception. Accounts payable clerks have the additional challenge to enter the amounts and accounts properly, as you don't want to have the wrong amounts to the wrong vendors paid. While we can discuss lengthily, if this job shouldn't be automated anyways and vendor invoices be a task for system integrators, the reality is blunt: thousands of AP clerks enter invoices manually.

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While in the first part of this series we looked at B2C-scenarios, we see now how governments use gamification for their financial services.

Government finances

The Canadian city of Montréal invites its citizens  already for the second time to work on the city’s budget through their budget simulator. Different revenue and expense categories are listed and can be reduced or increased by slider controls. From waste collection, parking fees, libraries and culture, public pools, citizens can play with the figures to reach a balanced budget – and propose it to the city. The city administration pledges to consider these suggestions.

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Mint.com GoalsGamification – the use of game design techniques and game mechanics in non-game context – has been a trending topic in the past 2 years. Although we have learned through many examples that gamification can be applied to a lot of different areas, and driven a lot by entertainment, marketing, branding, or education, one area may still seems too serious for some fun: the business of managing money.

But this would be a wrong understanding of gamification. Gamification is not about playing games, it’s about solving problems and engaging your users. And users can be your checking account holders, your merchants, your employees, or the employees of your corporate customers. A lot of examples have shown that gamification has a significant impact on how much more people are engaging, working, being creative, and ultimately also happier.

Business software maker SAP has been driving gamification in the corporate world over the past two years, especially in regards to the crucial role SAP plays in the enterprise software market. Gamifying the financial industry may either seem surprising and contradictory to the self-image that this industry has, or some may state that the financial sector is already a big game anyways. Whatever you believe, take a step back, and follow the examples and concepts in this blog.

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PlaymoolahAt the recent GSummit in San Francisco one of the most thrilling talks was by 6th grade teacher Tim Vandenberg. Tim's been using the board game Monopoly for years in the class room and brought his students – most of which are from poorer neighborhoods – to perform at unheard before levels, both in state math tests and at Monopoly competitions.

Using games to teach math with tremendous success is what Playmoolah does with teaching financial responsibility. Encountering the 2008 financial crisis and freshly graduated from Stanford University (and alumni of professor B.J. Fogg), Playmoolah co-founder Min Xuan Lee was wondering what the reasons for the apparent financial illiteracy were. Min and her co-founder Audrey Tan started brainstorming on a learning solution that introduces children to finances in a playful and fun way. And with only 32% of American parents talking to their children regularly about personal finance, they knew that they were up to a big task.

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