Yes, two non-political posts in one day. What is this world coming to? Anyway, this was the original post I had in mind today except Google's demo targeting announcement preempted this post. OK, so by now you've heard if you are into SecondLife that Linden Labs has a ban on any interest or any direct return on an investment unless banks are licensed by a real-world government. Of course this was no surprise to me because there were no guarantees on your deposits which means any idiot who put their Lindens in these "banks" were surely guaranteed to lose their deposits. Here's the official Linden Labs release.
Not trying to state the obvious, but banks give you interest on your money and then turn around and invest your money hoping to get better returns on the money they are giving you. Real banks need to keep some reserve and often invest in safer investments like homes and real estate. Remember that bank run scene from It's A Wonderful Life when George Bailey tells the people looking for their money that their money is in their neighbor's homes? Here's a 21 second clip to remind you!! (FYI for your cynical folks yes the real estate market has crashed making these safe investments go bad, but that's because these banks and investment banks got greedy and "forgot" how to make safe loans and lowered or even ignored credit standards).
What were these SL banks investing in? SL real estate? Gambling? SL stores? Those don't sound like safe investments to me. That's why I never believed their promises of returns and I just sat on my Lindens.
However, I think there is a huge play for big international, real world banks in SecondLife and of course these banks are not banned. I wrote this back about a year ago in the post called First Life Companies I'd Like to See in Second Life. For little marketing costs (people, programmers, and a low interest rate like 0.5%) a bank like Bank of America could setup shop and take deposits. They could "roll" these deposits in like any other local bank or just let it sit there enjoying free marketing and PR from Second Life citizens. By the way I did see a Bank of America listing that said "hold for sponsorship"; it could be nothing or it could be an agency holding it for them.
A real life bank setting up shop in SL would be a great way to give back to the Second Life community and start to understand virtual worlds. Someone should take the plunge.