Innovation labs are all the rage in the banking industry right now, but a debate has broken out about whether they will amount to more than window dressing.

The labs make splashy headlines and captivate employees' imaginations by having the latest gadgets like Apple Watch and virtual reality sets on hand. Some have acquired odd nicknames like "Bold Rocket." Sometimes they look like ordinary conference rooms; in other cases they resemble a slick startup's digs.

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