In a digital effort, HSBC purchases a virtual plot of property

HSBC (HSBA.L) is purchasing a parcel of virtual real estate in The Sandbox, an online gaming arena, for an unknown fee, marking the bank’s first big push into the metaverse as it consolidates its UK branch network.

Through its patch of turf in The Sandbox, a virtual arena majority-owned by Hong Kong-based Animoca Brands, HSBC will be able to engage with sports, e-sports, and gaming aficionados.

Its foray into the virtual world comes as the British lender reduces its physical footprint, saying on Tuesday that it would close a further 69 locations in the UK as its customers migrate online.

The U.S. bank opened a lounge space in a virtual mall, featuring a digital portrait of Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, after earlier in February publishing a report on “opportunities in the metaverse”.

Some $54 billion is spent annually on virtual goods, the U.S. bank said in its report, double the amount spent on buying music. Assets such as land can often be bought in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).