Over the past decade, the fintech industry has exploded in both the U.S. and the world over. The traditional banking system that has held sway over people’s money for centuries is facing its first real disruption at the hands of innovative technology.
The success of distributed ledger technologies like blockchain has forced financial institutions to sit up and pay attention. Now, rather than work against this rising tide of change, banks are scrambling to collaborate with fintech startups – or risk being left behind.
As social media powerhouses like Facebook and Russian counterpart VKontakte begin to investigate developing blockchain-based digital currencies, the way in which human beings transact value has undoubtedly reached a turning point in history.
In an interview with Entrepreneur.com, Agrees Caecilia Chu of Hong Kong-based Traveltech startup YouTrip sees a market ready for change.
“The market is ripe for platforms that drive efficiency for the businesses, has fair economic models and stays away from arbitrary pricing. That leaves very little for the incumbents and copycats. I hope to see pragmatic innovations in digital payments that scale quickly,” she says.
A future of programmable money
Alex Alexandrov, the CEO of groundbreaking AI-enhanced blockchain network VELAS, recently spoke on a panel with venture investor Alexander Borodich. The duo discussed recent developments and issues facing the industry, particularly those stifling the progress of the original cryptocurrency, Bitcoin.
“It’s too slow, there are too many problems. It’s definitely centralized beyond what the original design ever intended. Soon or later we’re gonna have to transition it to a better form of programmable money,” commented Alexandrov.
Despite enjoying a year of spectacular price increases, Bitcoin continues to draw criticism from those dedicated to progressing the cryptocurrency industry. Its purpose remains almost entirely as a means of speculative investment, manipulated by ‘whales’ and propped up by naive investors hoping to get rich quick. Alexandrov believes we can drastically improve upon this model and introduce an AI-enhanced means of programmable money that challenges the banks with genuine, real-life use cases.
“The ideal future of money is a blockchain that learns from itself and writes its own code. Something that a human can not write because it shouldn’t, it should just be created and ran by artificial intuition. It should be something that’s robust, has its own receptacles, understands its own environment.” explained the Velas CEO.
Customer convenience: A driving factor
Despite significant progress being made in the blockchain sector recently, the fintech industry is still largely dominated by centralized payment platforms like Paypal, Venmo and Paytm. To complement the digital services offered by these companies, several ‘online only’ banks have recently risen to power such as Monzo and Revolut, which have no physical branches but offer banking services and ATM cards.
While several major cryptocurrency companies, most notably Coinbase, have recently begun to offer ATM card services, widescale adoption of blockchain-based banking services still seems a way off. Alexandrov sees the ideal future to be one where a fully decentralized system enables peer-to-peer monetary transactions directly between users, completely removing the middle man.
“I think the final result of money should be a frictionless society in which anybody can spend whatever they have and the receiver should receive whatever they want,” continued Alexandrov.
“It should happen seamlessly and automatically without having to educate people or deal with anything.”
Business Insider recently included AI and blockchain as one of five key megatrends that are reshaping the future of the fintech industry. Other key points noted in its Future of Fintech 2019 analysis include the ‘global open banking movement’, the emergence of specialized fintech funding opportunities and “increasing regulatory scrutiny driving change in the financial services industry”.
The real answer to where the future of fintech will take us relies heavily on customer convenience. Any system that hopes to draw a large user base needs to offer a service that is equal or easier to use than those currently available. Decentralization alone is a concept that needs greater understanding amongst the general public to attract significant attention, but a system that can offer it while also providing a smoother experience may just be the next groundbreaking development.
Concluding his talk with Alexander Borodich, Alexandrov commented that “the future of money in my opinion, for banks, looks like video rental stores. Sooner or later people are not gonna want to wait in line to get their money.”