BB&T (BBT), one of the first banks to sponsor gamification to engage and teach people, has expanded the practice – this time to school young people in its philosophy in leadership.
The Winston-Salem, N.C., bank released a mobile app this month called Legacy: A BB&T Leadership Challenge, in which users play the role of a medieval hero enlisted by King Alpheus to help the land of Failburg succeed. (The king is named after BB&T founder Alpheus Branch.) Players gain influence – and proceed to the next level of the game – depending on how they interact with the characters.
The app, which is free, was developed by Chaotic Moon, based in Austin, Texas, for BB&T’s philanthropic unit. It runs on iPhone and Android devices. The bank plans to use the game in employee training, but the app is available to anyone, and BB&T says it could be used to teach high school and college students.
The game is whimsical, but the bank’s message is serious: beliefs drive the behaviors that drive results.
"The key to leadership is to get people to want to do it," says Kelly King, BB&T’s CEO, who first formally documented his thoughts on leadership in a thesis at graduate school. "People behave in a manner consistent with their beliefs."
Other financial companies and startups have explored role-playing techniques to train debt collectors, teach people about personal finance – such as in Wells Fargo’s [WFC] Stage Coach or Banker Jr., a children’s mobile app available to banks – or promote new features.
The delivery strategies attempt to capitalize on consumer behavior. According to a Filene Research Institute white paper, three billion hours are spent playing video games each week worldwide.
"Essentially it’s a new medium to get your message across," says George Hofheimer, chief research and innovation officer at Filene, a think tank that studies issues affecting credit unions. "It’s pretty clever and another way to engage people on a topic many may not want to engage on."
About a year and a half ago, King tasked Brittany Brown to become BB&T’s educational game project manager. Her challenge was finding a way to make the bank’s leadership model resonate with young people, a demographic with many social activities vying for its time.
Academic coursework often ignores the subject of leadership, Brown says. "I thought this was awesome, to have the CEO see the gap."
She chose Chaotic Moon as the bank’s partner because it develops apps, which would reach a larger audience than a vendor that creates simulators. The two companies worked together to make the leadership content playful and digestible and convey the ideas through a quirky set of characters like Gus, who has yet to realize his lifelong dream to be a carpenter, or Eve, who will come to run a spin studio. The characters weave in and out of the game and players only learn later in the story the significance of the initial meetings. "Like in the corporate world, you will meet people who you don’t know what role they will play," Brown says.
Several years ago, BB&T partnered with Everfi Inc to introduce a financial literacy game, which is now in place at more than 1,000 high schools. BB&T could similarly offer Legacy for high school curriculums. "We will use the app in as many ways as we can," Brown says.
King envisions Legacy sparking family dialogues on the topic of leadership – for example, parents discussing the subject with children after spotting them playing the game.
"Then we will hit real success," says King. "Embedded in our mission is to help the world become a better place....This [app] is trying to live out our mission."