Engaging people in managing their finances can be very hard. A lot of people have an unhealthy financial situation because they are not interested in managing their finances and often find it boring. Gamification has the potential to increase user engagement. But where there is a multitude of showcases claiming the positive effect of gamification, the empirical evidence is still scarce. In this blog post we discuss the results of our empirical study where we found empirical evidence on the positive effect of a player journey (and other gamification elements) on our customer’s engagement with their finances.

Rabobank has applied gamification for a few years now (link), although still in a subtle form and without the most commonly known elements such as points, badges and leaderboards (PBL’s). The Rabobank Gamification Hub, an internal network for researching and implementing gamification, is running pilots and studies investigating the effect of gamification both externally with clients and internally with employees.

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The AccountantWhat does the mob have in common with us? Pay taxes. That's why also the mob better pays them, otherwise they end up like Chicago's Al Capone: he was not convicted for any of the heinous murders under his watch and order, but for evading taxes.

But the big difference is that being a CPA for the mob is way more adventurous than working for most of the regular companies. Rocketfuel DSC together with the Canadian Chartered Accountant Professionals launched their free game The Accounted that teaches accounting in a fun style. In the role of a hotshot detective named ACE the player is confronted with puzzles and accounting information, and has to follow the case. The mystery that unfolds in 1940’s New York challenges ACE’s accounting knowledge every step of the way though puzzles and accounting quizzes. ACE realizes that not everything is what it seems as she dives deeper into the world of notorious mobster, Tony Zoots.

Other companies have gone similar routes of engaging people with often boring and mandatory learning content such as compliance. Most notoriously TrueOffice has had quite some success, and The Accountant will be following this pattern.

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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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