HSBC (HSBA.L) is buying a plot of virtual real estate in an online gaming space called The Sandbox for an undisclosed sum, the bank’s first major foray into the metaverse as it shrinks its UK branch network.
The digital push will enable HSBC to engage with sports, e-sports and gaming fans via its slice of turf in The Sandbox, a virtual space majority-owned by Hong Kong-based Animoca Brands.
Its venture into the virtual world comes as the British-based lender slashes its footprint in the real world, announcing on Tuesday it would cut a further 69 branches in Britain as its customers move online.
HSBC is the second global bank to invest in a popular metaverse platform after JPMorgan (JPM.N) last month set up a presence in blockchain-based Decentraland.
The US bank opened a lounge space in a virtual mall, featuring a digital portrait of Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, after earlier in February publishing a report on “opportunities in the metaverse”.
Some $54 billion is spent annually on virtual goods, the US bank said in its report, double the amount spent on buying music. Assets such as land can often be bought in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Users in metaverse environments like Animoca’s The Sandbox can buy land, walk around as avatars, play games and meet friends.
Facebook (FB.O) recently changed its name to “Meta” to signal its commitment to the metaverse concept.
HSBC said it hoped to be able to “create innovative brand experiences for new and existing customers,” in its virtual world.