Dutch banking group ING is shutting down the online community that it launched in screen-based virtual 3D-world Second Life a year ago.
ING launched its virtual mini-state, called ourvirtualholland, in February 2007. The aim of the site was to build an online community of creative and entrepreneurial people. Residents were able to set up a new business, build their own housing and design new products.
But, in a statement on its virtualholland Web site, ING says it will have closed down its activities in Second Life by 1 March 2008.
The bank claims that its merger with Postbank is the main reason for its exit from the virtual world.
"We want to change our focus to the merging of ING bank and Postbank. Developments in virtual worlds do not address to that," says the statement.
ING is one of a number of financial services firms to have set up virtual operations in Second Life. Fellow Dutch bank ABN Amro has set up a virtual financial advice centre in Second Life, while Germany's Wirecard Bank set up a cyber branch and Danish online investment bank Saxo established an office in the virtual world last year.
Last month Linden Labs, the San Francisco-based creator of Second Life, said it was banning all unregistered and unregulated 'banks' from the virtual world.
Linden Labs said the policy change followed complaints about several 'in-world banks' defaulting on their promises.
The complaints followed the collapse of so-called virtual bank Ginko Financial in August 2007. Ginko offered a 40%+ interest rate, but speculation among Second Life residents over whether it just a pyramid scheme eventually caused a run on the bank. Ginko reportedly ran out of funds owing customers more than US$750,000 in real money.