Virtual Reality

The popular virtual world of Second Life is on the road to becoming a communication tool in the financial world.

Before you know it, more meetings could be conducted on exotic islands—virtual, that is. Second Life could even evolve as a cheap tool for advisers and the financial industry as a whole to relate to the younger and more tech-savvy generation (see Talking to Twentysomethings).

In April 2008, the Internet-based Second Life ( had nearly 14 million “residents” and an economy totaling 4.9 billion Linden dollars (about $19.6 million), according to a press release. Since launching in 2003, Second Life has seen investment from consumer and technology companies, including IBM, as a medium for training, meetings, and corporate presentations.

As more companies become interested in using Second Life as the site of communication for employees, insurance group Aviva USA recently jumped on board. The company’s virtual island in the game is a venue to communicate with insurance and annuity agents, using the island for recruitment, education, and training.

What next? Annuity sales over virtual lunches? Maybe. While companies have not yet gone so far as to use Second Life to do regular business, it could be only a matter of time. Real life and second lives continues to collide with the popular game, as companies are finding it to be a cheap and effective method of communication.

Aviva said in a release it’s looking for ways it can use its Second Life practice to benefit customers and employees in real life. “Aviva understands that innovation and technology create competitive advantage,” said Tom Godlasky, president and CEO, who was named one of five “tech-savvy CEOs” in the June issue of Insurance & Technology magazine, according to the release.

Aviva’s island features virtual gifts for visitors, a training center, and a Bright Futures Center, which includes dioramas of life stages, a wellness area featuring lifestyle tools and private “wellness toolbar” for users to track Second Life and real world activities.

“Aviva’s product innovations are aided by technology, and we think an island in Second Life is one way to use technology to help agents learn about Aviva and our products,” said Mark Heitz, president of sales and distribution.