How the metaverse could boost Manchester United’s revenues

The metaverse could disrupt our life but not without risks. Sabih Behzad, Deutsche Bank’s Head of Digital Assets & Currencies Transformation, explains how data privacy can be guaranteed in virtual worlds – and how his football team could make money there.

What has soccer got to do with the metaverse? Explained in 99 seconds

The task is huge: evaluating a digital universe which some believe will drive the next ecommerce revolution, while others say it’s just hype. Before setting out on their assessment in a white paper, Sabih Behzad and his colleagues defined what Metaverse means to them: 3D virtual worlds that “mimic the real world”.

While some believe that there will be just one virtual world, Sabih and his colleagues expect multiple, interoperable metaverse ecosystems to emerge. Users can enter these ecosystems by using virtual reality (VR) headsets and haptic devices (such as gloves).

These ecosystems have enormous economic potential. The market for global retail ecommerce in the metaverse could reach 2 trillion US dollars by 2030, Behzad and his colleagues estimate, accounting for around 20 percent of all retail ecommerce. And this does not include use-cases from other industries such as gaming and real estate. In their idea of the Metaverse, so-called non-fungible-tokens (NFTs) could prove ownership of objects and could be used to exchange them.

While this estimate sounds rosy, there are various hurdles and major concerns to address. For example, the latest VR headsets can, according to reports, capture reactions, emotions and gestures – raising huge data privacy issues.

In this interview, Sabih Behzad explains how Meta aims to ensure digital safety and he reveals why he thinks that metaverse will be a gamechanger with the same impact as the World Wide Web.

Sabih, before we speak about details, let’s keep it simple: why should I as a private individual join the metaverse?

Today gaming is the big reason why people meet in the metaverse. The technology allows a global audience to come together in virtual worlds. Ultimately, joining the metaverse will be a whole new experience. We call it “immersive”, which means that you can experience something with multiple senses without physically being there. You could travel the world without leaving your living room, or even travel to worlds that mimic other eras like the Roman Empire for example.

You could travel the world without leaving your living room, or even travel to worlds that mimic other eras …Sabih Behzad

But is traveling in the metaverse really better than going to a football stadium with your friends?

It’s a different experience. Today you have the choice between going to the stadium or watching the game on TV. While the stadium offers a nice atmosphere, the TV offers a commentator with replays, and you don’t have to travel. The metaverse could be a mix, where you have the comfort of staying at home, but could still enjoy a stadium-like atmosphere. That could attract spectators from all over the world. For example, I am a Manchester United fan but live in London – so I would love to try that.

And Manchester United could sell more tickets?

Maybe in the long term, but for the foreseeable future it would be free as the technology needs to develop. Perhaps after watching ten games in the metaverse they could offer me a discount for a game in their physical Old Trafford stadium. Or they could give me a non-fungible token (NFT) which allows me to meet a player. If I don’t want that I could sell that NFT in the Metaverse. Creating additional experiences is interesting for the big European clubs which have fans all over the world.

Besides sport: which other use use-cases excite you most?

Besides sport, it’s fashion. The big brands are setting up stores in the metaverse. In the future a retailer could reward a customer who frequently visits his virtual shop by giving the customer a non-fungible token (NFT). This NFT allows the customer’s avatar to wear a limited-edition T-shirt. The customer could also get this T-shirt in the real world. The T-shirt would have a chip and the retailer could capture movement data from the customer and their avatar and further reward them.

The big brands are setting up stores in the metaverse.Sabih Behzad

Wow, that raises strong concerns about data privacy. Who would seriously want that?

Maybe an influencer. But the most important point is that every participant can decide which data they want to share. In that regard we expect the emergence of digital identity solutions built on Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), allowing users to determine what personal data is shared and with whom. Right now a lot of work is happening in that area and there are interesting concepts – however these solutions are not mature yet.

The most important point is that every participant can decide which data they want to share.Sabih Behzad

That’s in the metaverse. But what about the data recorded by the VR headsets that we need to enter the metaverse?

That’s a challenge. There are reports saying that these devices measure reactions, emotions and gestures and feed them into the artificial intelligence of the owner of the metaverse ecosystem. So we will need an industry standard for that where all the big suppliers commit to certain rules. Of course, that will not satisfy everybody and attitudes towards data privacy differ between regions. This will result in different adoption rates of the metaverse across the globe.

Another key challenge is to create a trusted and safe environment in the metaverse to protect users from abuse.

Creating such an environment is essential to the success of the metaverse. In this regard Meta chose an interesting approach: they built a “Safe Zone” into their virtual-reality-platform “Horizon”. This “Safe Zone” is a protective bubble that users can activate when feeling vulnerable where no one can touch, talk or interact with them in any way. Ensuring digital safety in the metaverse is a huge topic not only for the providers of the virtual worlds. And banks can play a crucial role in this.


Once services in the metaverse become more advanced companies will require users to identify themselves – e.g. when buying certain products, joining parties or driving cars. Banks are trusted institutions in the physical world and could store the digital identities of users in the metaverse. They could then validate them when required. As the metaverse makes the physical and virtual world blur more and more, these services could be in high demand.

Banks are trusted institutions in the physical world and could store the digital identities of users in the metaverseSabih Behzad

What else are you thinking of?

Identification could also be required when moving from one virtual world to enter another. And it will be an important task to ensure that only credible people join a virtual world. Furthermore, banks could build the payments infrastructure for metaverse platforms, exchange cryptocurrencies to traditional currencies and develop lending and financing solutions for companies that want to be successful in the metaverse.

Sounds like huge opportunities. What is missing for metaverse to unfold its potential?

A couple of steps. First, we need rules for property rights, so that it is clear to everyone who has the ownership rights of a digital object. Then data privacy and digital safety must be ensured. Last, huge investment is needed and the technology needs to mature: that holds true for the VR headsets and the virtual worlds themselves. But once we are there the metaverse will be a gamechanger similar to the World Wide Web. The experiences it offers will be too good to not succeed.

This interview was conducted by Georg Berger

Sabih Behzad smiling

About Sabih Behzad

As Global Head of Digital Assets & Currencies Transformation, Sabih Behzad’s job is to develop Deutsche Bank’s overall strategy, identify use cases partnering with the different businesses and execute on Deutsche Bank’s vision. Sabih has a very varied background – he is a charted engineer with a first degree in Computer Systems Engineering and worked in the technology consulting space for a number of years.

Following a MBA from London Business School, he has worked as a M&A banker at Lehman Brothers, Nomura and Deutsche Bank. At Deutsche Bank he had senior roles in strategy, business development and KYC. In short, a mix of technology, strategy and finance. While it is still early, he believes that the metaverse and associated Web 3 tooling is the next iteration of the internet. It could profess to revolutionise ecommerce, make everybody a digital content owner and put far more power in the hands of users. For him it is exciting to be part of such a radical shift.

Avatar Georg Berger

Georg Berger

… is interested in the opportunities the metaverse offers today – and how the technology will develop in the future.

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