Canadian bank launches immersive virtual reality program for interns
TD Bank Group (TD), recently named the top brand out of 100 in the Brand Finance 2023 Canada Report, recently launched a co-op and intern virtual reality (VR) pilot.
Running from January to April 2023, the pilot program provides students with a VR headset, along with a suite of immersive 3D programming that enables them to connect with fellow TD interns across Canada.
I was able to sit down with Associate Vice President of Global Early Talent and Executive Search at TD, Jennifer Sanders; Head of Innovation at TD, Imran Khan; and Global Risk and Compliance Intern at TD, Keshini Hallock, to discuss their perspectives on this innovative new program.
Khan tells blogTO that this program was inspired by another TD initiative, Tech Jam, a 10-day, innovation event where TD colleagues from across the company work in teams to develop solutions to a problem statement. The 2022 theme was 'Financial well-being in the metaverse.'
“We have an innovation framework where we take ideas that we get and go through an exploration and validation process,” elaborates Khan. “The Tech Jam idea was just a really cool idea, and we wanted to start with interns because we think that they would appreciate this experience. So we got endorsed, and we were off to the races.”
TD collaborated with Capco, a global management and technology company, and Mesmerise, an enterprise VR company, to plan the logistics of the program and build out what these virtual reality spaces would look like.
Khan tells us that, because there was so much possibility with this new technology, they really focused on human-centred design to understand which activities TD wanted to work with.
“We wanted to give our staff that experience versus the standard virtual meeting that we might have done in the past with folks that were spread out all over North America,” says Khan. “Because it is different from just a call. You can't just apply it directly [to virtual reality] because then you're not taking full advantage of the medium and the new technology.”
While the virtual reality component of this pilot program helps connect this cohort of TD students across Canada, Sanders says it was important to keep the internships a hybrid experience.
“We know that the students still want a combination of in-person and virtual experiences, so from the beginning when we designed it, that was really important for us,” says Sanders.
Two separate spaces were created for the students to network and collaborate in.
The first was created with their technology partner, Mesmerise, which is a more formal conference space with more realistic avatars. Events using this space included live leadership panel discussions, a lunch and learn presentation, and networking sessions with fellow interns.
The second space is meant to be more informal, with more cartoonish avatars. There, students could unwind, network and play games like ping pong, basketball, Pictionary and more.
Outside of these spaces, students were also provided with free access to a health and fitness app, with hundreds of on-demand classes and opportunities for them to work out together.
“Wherever you are, you can come together in a very real experience and connect with colleagues,” says Sanders. “We were able to create this fantastic, immersive TD experience for our co-op and intern students.”
A fourth-year Business Technology Management student at Toronto Metropolitan University, this is Keshini Hallock’s third work-term at TD, initially joining in May 2022.
“This pilot program to me was just next level,” says Hallock. “I've had internships outside of TD and I've never seen anything quite like this. The program has innovative technology that I think will only get bigger and better, so I knew that I had to be a part of it otherwise I'd be missing out on a great opportunity.”
One of the things that stands out about this pilot for Hallock is her ability to easily connect with her cohort through the experience, and establish greater connections with an expanded network of peers. “And I get to play games with my peers, and I don't even have to leave my room. It's awesome.”
Hallock was thrilled that TD exposed her to this emerging technology so early in her career and definitely recommends anyone who has a chance like this to take it.
“It's a learning experience that still has me in awe. There's so much for you to see and do. And an intern can work out and play games with people like they've never done before. Who wouldn't want that kind of workplace?”
Sanders mentions that, while TD will be running a survey for the students to talk about their experience in the pilot, the initial reaction has been positive.
“We're starting to get some anecdotal feedback and it's been phenomenal,” says Sanders. “We've had people say this is the best way to work with their peers across the country.”
While this VR pilot program is still in its testing stage, Khan says that TD is working on VR experiences for its customers — like gamified financial literacy — but they're really taking their time to make sure that the experience is accessible and inclusive.
"The pilot is a great example of colleague-led innovation that has created a really creative inclusive experience at TD," says Khan. "We have a strong culture of innovation at TD and I think pilots like these help showcase that for talent looking to join the Bank."
To learn more about how you can apply to their internship programs, you can visit the TD Early Talent LinkedIn page — and keep your eyes on their Instagram and Twitter for more TD innovations.
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