How Erste Bank builds employee resilience for stressful situations like bank robberies

Customer intro

Erste Bank was founded in 1819 as the first Austrian savings bank. The bank is headquartered in Vienna, and has 45,000 employees serving 16 million clients in more than 2000 branches in 7 countries.

Erste Bank has a strong focus on innovation and digitalisation and is always looking for new approaches to learning and training employees and managers. Virtual reality training is used to prepare employees for a number of situations that are hard to prepare for using more traditional methods like checklists, e-learning and classroom training.

Challenge

An important focus of Erste Bank’s training program is to prepare employees for potentially unsafe situations like bank robberies. Training is aimed at improving employee resilience and prevent negative outcomes like PTSD. This however was very resource intensive, as trainers had to visit branches separately throughout the year to organize face-to-face workshops.

Bringing together all employees per branch is furthermore hard to organize with many part-time roles, holidays, etc. And more importantly, only a few people could actively participate in the roleplays which were part of the training, whereas the rest could only watch.

Solution

VR training uses true-to-life scenarios where trainees can practise and learn by doing. They are placed in situations like a real bank robbery, and by choosing their actions they learn the best way to respond and what to remember of the perpetrator.

Erste Bank branch employees can participate with their own own smartphones together with foldables and slide-in goggles. This way, they can learn anytime how to follow procedures (e.g. how to use a safe in a secure way), de-escalate difficult situations and react correctly to threat scenarios and security topics in the branch. For sensitive security topics, there were no linear trajectories and good or bad paths, but only better and worse reactions to each situation. Other scenarios like receiving visitors, working with safes and fraud prevention do use right and wrong answers.

In the creation process of VR training scenarios, Erste Bank selects topics where VR as a format is beneficial to the whole learning journey - maybe together with a face-to-face training, but also where there is a bigger scaling effect and where you can learn through specific situations in the best possible way. Then relevant people from a diverse group of internal specialists and users are brought together, as a broad perspective is important. In a first brainstorming phase, different situations are prepared and it is decided what elements each story should be made up of.

Once a scenario is defined, the story needs to be created including a prologue, tension curve, engagement, replayability, characters, dialogue and creating the right challenge for the target audience. The next step is choosing camera locations and actors and filming the different scenes using a 360-degree camera. All stories are recorded in existing bank branches with the involvement of actors and real employees, to make the training scenarios as realistic as possible.

"The VR glasses and the 360-degree view make it much easier to immerse yourself in a scenario and feel much more realistic compared to educational videos or roleplaying games. Especially when it comes to escalations and real threat situations, which are difficult to simulate in conventional workshops with your own colleagues. Every decision I make in the VR scenario has an impact on the further storyline, contrary to the rigid linear process of a training video." - David Gezzele, Head of Learning & Development, Erste Bank

In the test phase, experiments were carried out with both more expensive VR glasses such as the Oculus Go and simpler solutions in which a smartphone acts as the headset screen. Due to the cost factor and security concerns - each VR headset had to be integrated into the bank's corporate network - the lower-threshold solution with the smartphone-based headsets will be used in the future, as trainees liked the accessibility of 2D training in combination with foldables better. Using a SAP SuccessFactors integration, VR scenarios are distributed to individual employees. In the LMS, trainers can see who completed specific training scenarios.

"Warp VR is very supportive throughout the whole process - from creating a VR scenario until its implementation. Also, in the very beginning the technical setup and all the hurdles connected to that were managed in a highly professional way. Working with Warp VR on scenarios involves a lot of co-creation, which we really appreciate. What helped us as L&D a lot is besides the fact that they are highly skilled in the technical area (for VR itself but also when it comes to technical interfaces and data security topics) and they bring in lots of experts (e.g. script writing, filming and sound). We are very happy about the outcomes and VR scenarios we have created with them." - Nadine Steiger, Learning & Development Specialist at Erste Bank

Learn more about how Erste Bank uses VR training for fraud prevention in our interview with Stefanie Schoder (Teamlead Learning at Erste Bank), and Stefanie Trapp (Fraud Specialist at Erste Bank).

Results

The bank robbery pilot scenario was tested with about 50 branch employees (advisors in retail, L&D people and retail branch managers). As their feedback was very positive with VR considered as an easy and memorable learning format, the pilot was scaled up to the rest of the branches. Feedback from the pilot showed that playing in a virtual reality environment has a significant added value and the emotional charge is also much higher. The bank noticed a significant increase in engagement compared to other forms of training.

Feedback from pilot users:

“You are all about experiencing the situations as closely and intensively as possible, because this is supposed to improve the learning effect. This is definitely the case, I was despite the "simple glasses" (referring to foldable devices) in the middle instead of just there. But I also had headphones on, which I can definitely recommend. You could really feel the atmosphere. Now I'm someone who can empathize very well with a situation and then also gets fully involved in it, but also not so situation-emphatic colleagues will definitely enjoy this training.”

“It really makes sense for me to continue in this direction with VR. This is definitely the right solution for the coming years and should be a fixed component of the learning offer. It deserves a place in the training cycles or even annual AMOS refreshers.”

“It's totally different and really fun to play through. The simulation is totally cool! And also playing it with VR glasses is something completely different!”

“Very well done, easy to put yourself in there.”

“The learning effect was very great. I could take away a lot, with much reference to everyday situations.”

“Nicely done, the examples and everything around that – just how it really is during our workday.”

”The collaboration with Warp VR was really great, because we worked together as a team. We knew exactly what we wanted to achieve and it was clear who was doing what. For me as Head of Learning & Development, it's important to get really good support from the very beginning until the end. So far it's been a great success story regarding collaboration and most important the outcome.” - David Gezzele, Head of Learning & Development, Erste Bank

Learn more

Learn more about how Erste Bank uses VR training in our interview with David Gezzele (Head of Learning & Development at Erste Bank), and our talk at AWE EU 2023 - How Erste Bank is Using Gamification and Storytelling in VR Training.

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