Why Money Will Soon Be Extinct
Alternative financial tools are evolving to meet the expectations of Generations X and Y.
Since the financial crisis of 2008, people have questioned how much trust they should place in large banks and financial institutions. This sentiment is echoed by research from The Curve Report, which finds that 65% of Gen Xers and Ys say they are “ready for something new” as opposed to sticking with the “tried and true” financial institutions and principles (35%). This shift in perception means that individuals are reinventing the financial services typically provided by banks, venture capitalists, hedge funds, and angel investors, thereby creating new options through which consumers can save, spend, borrow, and manage their money.
In collaboration with the minds behind The Curve Report from NBCUniversal, PSFK wanted to investigate the rise of new financial devices and institutions that will shape the way we manage our money in the coming decades.
Alternative financial models have already gained strong traction among Gen Xers and Ys. According to The Curve Report, nearly three-quarters (72%) of them are game for one or more fringe financial models, ranging from P2P loans to fractional ownership to financial mentorship, the latter of which topped Gen Xers’ and Ys’ lists of the alternative financial service they are most interested in. Not only does this cede power from large banks, but also presents the opportunity for a whole new range of peer-to-peer and community based financial alternatives to spring up and flourish.
One of the most radical examples of this shift is the growing viability of the digital currency bitcoin. The currency uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority or banks; transaction management and the issuing of bitcoins is carried out collectively by the network. Bitcoin is also entirely open-source, its design is public, nobody owns or controls bitcoin and everyone can take part in it. While it was originally started as an experiment among a small internet community, mainstream merchants are beginning to adopt bitcoin as a legitimate form of payment. For example, Atlanta-based Bitpay, which helps companies accept bitcoin as payment, now has more than 10,000 clients, including consumer electronics, precious metals and IT services merchants. While bitcoin is still in its early stages, its relative success has demonstrated an overall desire for a method of payment entirely independent from the current financial system.
Aside from the anarcho-capitalist future presented by bitcoin, there are many big brands working on initiatives in the present that appeal to alternative financial models. For example, the ‘Dodge Dart Registry’ works like a traditional registry in that it lets friends and family select presents for the recipients, but here the gifts are different parts of a new car. The online program allows consumers to configure and customize their Dodge Dart and then set a goal for the amount they want to raise, which can be a portion of the cost of a new Dart or the full price. It then itemizes the components of the car, like the steering wheel, seats, and engine, allowing family and friends to sponsor specific parts. Once the fundraising goal has been reached, they can go to the dealership and pick up their new car. The platform has so far been a success, and demonstrates how crowd funding can be applied to a wide range of situations.
Tackling the issue from a lender’s perspective, tech startups are beginning to use social data to determine the risk in issuing loans to people, utilizing metrics such as Facebook pages and friends to determine someone’s credit score. For example, Lenddo is a startup that is helping consumers in emerging markets develop creditworthiness and gain access to financial services, using online activity as a way to judge their reliability in repaying loans. By analyzing a person’s reputation on social media, the service is able to determine whether that person is likely to pay back a loan. Although it may sound subjective, so far the program is working, with Lenddo’s repayment rate falling roughly in line with other traditional microfinance systems, which is typically above 95 percent. Similarly, Kreditech is an online loan service that uses up to 8,000 data points when assessing an application for a loan, including information from Facebook, eBay and Amazon accounts. The company also monitors how customers fill out the online form, so if you spend time carefully reading through the information your chances will improve. These services demonstrate how new technology can be used to empower individuals to get the loans they need.
Whether it’s a crowdfunded skyscraper in Bogota, Colombia, or a new galactic currency intended to be used in space, these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when imagining what kind of impact new financial models might have on our society. As articulated in The Curve Report, “Generation Xers and Ys, already accustomed to pooling resources and “Kickstarting” passion projects, are among the first generations that will buy life insurance along with their breakfast cereal, collectively bankroll everything from cars to college tuition, and borrow cash from “friends” on Facebook.” Looking ahead, our financial services will continue to evolve along with future generation’s expectations, and define new innovative ways to manage and interact with our money.
For a closer look at what this future might look like, be sure to head over to The Curve Report to check out Fast Finance, which explores the potential impact of new and alternative financial systems.