Playing games with other peoples’ money


As Europe, and the world, entered the first weeks of pandemic lockdown in Spring 2020, a carefully planned inter-University finance simulation project was coming to fruition.

  • Did the emergency impact its delivery?
  • Did the 55 students engaged suffer delay and confusion?
  • Did the academic staff using the simulation as the core of their own assessed courses have to think again?
  • Did the pandemic disadvantage the student competitors in any way?

The answer to these questions is a resounding “NO”. The online simulation ran its course, learning was supported by timely feedback and prizes were awarded on schedule.



Promotional video for simulation

I led the “X_Bank” project with the support of the triple-accredited Loughborough University School of Business and Economics and the co-operation of The Universities of Latvia, Malta and Liechtenstein and the simulation company TOPSIM.

Versions of the Finance simulation, in which teams of students “manage” their increasingly complex bank, set their own strategies, compete against each other for market share and try to maintain profitability and liquidity had been the basis of an Erasmus Intensive Programme (IP) running from 2005 to 2012. The IP funded student and staff travel and accommodation at a host University for a 2-week immersion in the Financial environment of that country. The backbone of the IP was the application of a banking simulation.

However, the simulation was only available in a physical environment and I wanted to test whether a similar exercise could be undertaken entirely online, not only to be inclusive to those students unable to travel but also to engage larger numbers of students in a sustainable way.

So, several key things coincided to make an online version of the simulation possible:

  • First, my enthusiasm was fuelled by experts like Rob Alvarez from IE Business School. He outlined how games can be designed to encourage and motivate groups of students to perform.  You can engage with Rob at a future EFMDGlobal event: Gamification of Learning workshop in September 2021.
  • Second, as a lecturer in Banking and Economics, I could see how the complexity of real banking decisions was not well represented by traditional research-based teaching.
  • Third, my School offered a £5,000 (€6,000) grant to fund set-up costs, game licenses and student prizes.

Web preparations

My first job was to engage a number of partner institutions able to furnish students at an appropriate time in their studies -the timing proved to be one of the trickier issues! Here, I was fortunate to have made such firm friends during the face-to face IP and so Latvia, Malta and Liechtenstein joined Loughborough.

Arrangements were made with TOPSIM experts Klaus Walter of SIM-PLEMENT and Angela Feigl of DigitAll360 to access the web-based version of the banking simulation. Klaus and Angela were also the driving force behind a recent EOCCS workshop on Simulations.

Next, guest access to Moodle, the Loughborough University VLE, was negotiated for participants. The Moodle website was then populated with explanatory videos such as this on YouTube, instruction manuals and links to the weekly results webinars.

Then, after months of planning, the simulation played out over 5 weeks of pandemic…

The future of X_Bank

The initial pilot of the X_Bank simulation was designed to test the concept, to test the simulation and to allow embedding in courses where possible. The pilot achieved all of these aims.

In mounting the project, the four Universities strengthened their international links, demonstrated the complexity of business decision making and assured learning in respect of transferable skills such as communication and organisation.

Key student benefits

List of benefits derived from simulation play

But there are many more areas to be investigated:

  • Can it be played with team members selected from different Universities?
  • Can it be scaled to cover more institutions?
  • Can it be monetised?

I am hoping, and expecting, that the answer to these questions is an emphatic “YES”.

If you think that you can help provide answers to these (and other) questions or simply require more information please do not hesitate to contact me at: