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SJP rolls out industry-first Virtual Reality training

Wealth management group St. James’s Place has become the first financial services provider to roll out industry-leading Virtual Reality (VR) technology for training and role-playing across the business.

This is the first of its kind in Financial Services adviser and employee training, one of a number of planned launches from SJP’s Learning & Development Team using Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology. The aim is to develop and deliver a full programme based on these new technologies to accelerate learning throughout the business and improve overall performance.

SJP L&D have already begun to use the headsets for virtual presentations and workshops as well as social events, allowing users to meet and get to know each other in a virtual setting.

Virtual Reality role-playing was first rolled out through the SJP Academy in September 2021, alongside in-person teaching, providing a blend of face-to-face and remote-based learning that was successfully adopted during the Covid pandemic. It is currently being used by Academy delegates, allowing them to practice client meetings, fact finding and building rapport with clients with a greater degree of realism. By reducing the need for solely classroom learning, the SJP Academy is determined to make financial planning training more accessible, allowing trainees to work from any location at their own pace.

Trainees are provided with headsets that allow them to experience the role of an adviser and engage in conversations with virtual clients through a series of multiple-choice questions. They can then watch the encounter back to increase their understanding from a client’s point of view and also receive feedback by hearing their clients’ thoughts played out.

The new programme has enabled the SJP Academy to double its intake this year to 400 delegates across 22 locations. The immersive learning experience, created with VR specialists Make Real and 55EFIVE in collaboration with experts within SJP, uses 200 Oculus Quest headsets, with 50 more being rolled out in the coming months.

With VR training continuously tested in the field, the team have developed new characters and experiences, with greater diversity of clients and scenarios to support all aspects of the business to drive commercial performance and operational efficiency.

Di Macdonald, Divisional Director of Learning & Development at St. James’s Place, comments: “The intention is to give people a safe space to practice in, so that they can gain confidence without the need for access to trainers, coaches or peers. It also enables us to utilise resources more effectively and train more people in a shorter space of time. We are able to enhance existing soft skills training and capture areas that may need more practice than others.

“This technology is improving rapidly, and is becoming more affordable, better quality and easier to use. Our continuing research and development programme is working to ensure that we can further enhance what is on offer.“

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