What the future of finance means for the future of every other industry

Just like fashion, retail and design, the world of banking – one of the most ancient of all societal systems – is in the midst of its own digital revolution. The buzzword here is fintech (financial technology) and what’s happening in fintech – from banking by app to social loans – holds lessons for just about every service industry.

At WIRED Money this week, speakers from start-ups, incumbents and world-leading institutions came together to talk about key ideas for the sector’s future, and many of the topics carry deep cross-industry relevance. Here’s what you need to know.

Trust is the universal currency

Banking, fundamentally, is about trust, said JP Rangaswami, chief data officer at Deutsche Bank. “To think about the future of banking, you have to think about the future of trust.” This includes data, of course – “Trust is underpinned with data. How do I know that you did what you said you’d do? How do I know that you are you?” – but also rethinking the banking experience: “You have to simplify what the customer needs to do”.

One of the recurring discussions of the day, interestingly, revolved around customer data and who owns that information – another area that ultimately comes down to trust. Rangaswami’s pithy response? “Who owns customer data? There is a clue in the name.”

Local currency is about to find its time

Amos Meiri, co-founder and CEO of Colu, heralded the arrival of a new breed of localised currencies, made possible by Blockchain technology. While schemes like the Brixton Pound were pioneers, he said, the right time and place – and technology – for local currency has now arrived. “Connected cities are the drivers of economic growth and change, but a sense of organic connections between people has been lost. We need to feel connected to one another, not just live next to each other. We need to live together.”

Announcing that Colu will now focus on creating local currencies (backed by hefty investment, and with the co-operation of three central banks), he said that community managers for neighbourhoods and municipalities are approaching Colu to work on a range of projects. “Adoption and practical use are not years away, but are happening now.” Local currencies are already being put in place in Israel, Barbados and Brazil.

The power of bots

Just as every start-up previously associated itself with the words “big data”, said WIRED’s editor-in-chief David Rowan, now the scramble is on to build your business model on “machine learning”.

Marta Krupinska, co-founder of money transfer company Azimo, spoke of how her company is using machine learning to remove friction from the process of sending remittance. While sending or receiving remittance is something 1 billion people in the world do, including its 250 million migrants, 90% of these transactions still take place offline. Azimo uses AI to make the transfer process more smooth, as well as to pick up on anomalies in transfer patterns – so if you just put through a transfer from Ibiza, and now you’re in Germany an hour later doing another transfer, that’s a red flag. “I very much believe in the power of bots,” she said. “I don’t want to scale by people, I want to scale by technology.”

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