St James’s Place has rolled out a virtual reality technology for training and role-playing across the business, allowing it to increase academy numbers this year.
The virtual reality role-playing was first rolled out through the SJP academy in September, alongside in-person teaching, providing a blend of face-to-face and remote-based learning 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.
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 FTSE 100 company to double its academy intake this year to 400 delegates across 22 locations.
By reducing the need for classroom learning, SJP said it is determined to make financial planning training more accessible, allowing trainees to work from any location at their own pace.
Di Macdonald, divisional director of learning and development at SJP, said: “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.”
A still from St James's Place's virtual reality adviser training programme
The firm said the aim of the virtual reality training is to develop and deliver a full programme based on these new technologies to accelerate learning throughout the business and improve overall performance.
It explained the VR training is continuously tested in the field and the team has developed new characters and experiences, with greater diversity of clients and scenarios to support various aspects of the business.
Macdonald added: “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.”
The learning experience was created with VR specialists Make Real and 55EFIVE in collaboration with experts within SJP. It uses 200 Oculus Quest headsets, with 50 more being rolled out in the coming months.
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