KPMG’s $30 million bet on the metaverse

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by Sheryl Estrada

“Today, if you look at all the revenue generated in the metaverse (which could reach $800 billion by 2024), most of it is in the metaverse gaming space,” Cliff Justice, head of U.S. Business Innovation at KPMG, told me. “All the collaboration that has been developed, matured and refined in the online gaming space is expanding into more serious business-to-business and business-to-consumer transactions.”

KPMG US and KPMG Canada are investing a total of $30 million over the next year, focusing on Web3 and metaverse capabilities, including a collaboration hub. “This is an investment in our people and new technologies,” says Justice. “We created a center of excellence in the U.S. and Canada has done the same. We’re developing products and services. We have studios to test new ideas and new services around Web3 and the metaverse. And we have funds for joint development with customers.”

Think of the metaverse as “the evolution of the Internet,” says Justice. Beyond the augmented reality aspect of the metaverse, it is part of Web3 technologies, which is based on decentralized blockchain technology and “may provide a more immersive and reliable interactive web in the future,” he says.

Businesses want to capture a younger age group and get their attention. “I have a 14-year-old who plays Roblox, Fortnite and Minecraft,” Justice says. The younger generation is used to collaborative platforms, he says. “It’s very natural to expand this space of computer games towards more entrepreneurial activity,” Justice says.

KPMG’s exploration of Web3 began before the pandemic. Justice and a colleague wrote a paper published in 2019 on augmented reality (real and virtual combined environments) beyond games, he says. The research was useful at the start of the pandemic to support increased investment in the space as demand for more collaborative technology became necessary.

Training is an “essential early-stage use case” for KPMG employees in the metaverse. “These are richer, more engaging forms of training compared to the typical recorded training models we’ve been using for the last decade or more,” says Justice. For example, employees will receive training on skill sets focused on finance, accounting, audit or risk or assurance for regulatory issues.

KPMG bought virtual reality headsets for employees to get into the metaverse, but they are not owned by a specific vendor. “We are ‘neutral’ in terms of the platform and the hardware we use,” Justice says. In the metaverse, KPMG clients can simulate a production site and bring in expertise from different parts of the world to collaborate, he says.

KPMG in Canada has added Ethereum and Bitcoin to its corporate treasury. “The firm in the US hasn’t done that,” Justice says. “These are very unstable, emerging types of technologies.

Big turbulence is going on right now. That’s not high on our priority list. No company has announced material investments in any particular cryptocurrency.” The US company is more interested in blockchain technologies that support cryptocurrencies as a way to exchange intellectual property and secure data.

It will take at least 10 years before the Web3 protocol overtakes the current Web2 protocol, Justice says. “There are a lot of traceable data points that are useful to a financial manager from the early adopters of the metaverse,” he says. “Look at the fundamentals and foundational technologies that improve business, business results and profitability, revenue potential and customer experience.”

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