This is the last of the six big questions we are tackling next week at SIBOS. In case you missed them, the other five are:
- When will we know there won't be another meltdown?
- Who will be the next global superpower?
- What happens when there is no more poverty?
- If payments are free, who pays? and
- Can we confidently create ways of investing for the long-term?
The final question is obviously the hardest.
How can anyone know what banking will be like in 2110?
That’s like Star Trek or fantasy alle.
It’s just stoopid.
Or is it?
Could bankers and futurists in 1910 have predicted what banking would look like in 2010?
They would have had no idea about the internet, call centres and mobile telephones.
They would have no ability to even think about Facebook and Twitter.
The idea of flash trades and flash crashes would be an alien concept.
Real-time clearing and settlement would have been as easy to absorb as ET landing on their heads.
And real-time, global, corporate treasury supply chain management would be about as well understood as Paris Hilton.
Hmmm … Paris Hilton?
Apologies for completely gratuitous picture of Paris Hilton
Anyways in 1910 Einstein had no theory of relativity, the A-Bomb was but a twinkle, the car was just taking off and the telephone was being delivered to offices to connect post rooms with post rooms.
We had never had a World War, and no-one knew there were going to be two.
Britain was still an Empire and, apart from America, still had colonies.
And banks were all paper-based record keepers, safeguarding money in their vaults.
Who could have predicted that they would have become safeguards of data a century later, as data became more valuable than money as an asset?
Mind you, there were some similarities a century ago to the way life is today.
Life was still as manic, as change occurred at lightspeed intensity in the Edwardian’s eyes.
Trains and train tracks had connected all towns, and urbanisation had begun in earnest.
Banks were creating new commercial activities through bonds and securities, and the cheque allowed trade direct from consumer to business as easily as cash, but now over remote links.
Globalisation was occurring through the launch of airships and boats of immense size traversing the seas, allowing Europe and America and Asia to do far more trade that the century before.
In other words, there were parallels and differences, some of which could be foreseen and some of which could not.
And there were visionaries like H. G. Wells and Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens) who saw the rise of machines and automation, and the changes these could make to the world both good and bad.
For example, Mark Twain was one of the first people in the world to own a telephone, way back in 1877. In a remarkable prediction of the future, he had this to say thirteen years later: “one of the very most useful of all inventions, but rendered almost worthless and a cold and deliberate theft and swindle by the black scoundrelism and selfishness of the companies of chartered robbers who conduct it.”
Oh how times do not change.
So, back to 2010 and 2110, what can we think about the future with confidence?
Well, we’ve already made some statements.
There will be further financial crises.
In what shape or form, who knows, although a currency war and China crisis are likely.
Europe will continue to make progress and will achieve over 150 years of consolidation and co-operation by then, assuming the Union remains.
So there will probably be an integrated, single European market.
It is likely that the planet will have lost many languages, as English has taken over as the language of choice.
Technology will continue its irreversible march, although on a different plane. After all, by 2110, it is highly probable that all buildings, roads, areas of the planet will have chips embedded for wireless communications and so self-driving cars and ‘air pods’ will be the order of the day. In other words, yes, we will all be up in the air for certain.
In fact, it’s likely that America or China or India will have landed on Mars by 2110 and space exploration will have reached new heights. Holidays on the Moon could be the order of the day for example, if Virgin Galactic gets their way.
This will be important as large chunks of Earth may have become uninhabitable due to climate change, with the weather violent and unpredictable due to the Northern ice sheets melting in the 2020s.
Mind you, that could be good news for Greenland, where the Inuit suddenly find their mineral resources create great wealth.
Oil of course has long been plundered and used, and the Middle East is no longer a war zone as there’s nothing left that is worth fighting for there.
Instead, Africa is the new war zone, as its resources and wealth has taken the Middle East’s place.
In particular, the battle over natural water resources is the biggest issue, and this sparked a Third World War in the 2030s.
A World War in the 21st century is nothing like a World War in 20th century, and most of the War was played out through cyberterrorism wrecking the economies of several African nations as China and America played their war games out across the connections of the continent.
So, by 2110, we live in a world where everything is wirelessly connected, galactic tourism is the order of the day, and there are still wars, but far less and far better managed than ever before.
And so to banking.
Banks still exist in 2110, but they are nothing like the banks of 2010.
The banks are firstly regulated to be safe keepers of information, not money.
Second, banks are no longer bounded by physical entities, as many have transcended into functionality that can be plugged in anywhere. Even your car, fridge, watch, house are bank linked, so that when you fill your car with hydrogen – as mentioned, oil supplies ran out in 2067 – then the car makes a debit on your information account without any action being taken by the car driver.
Third, banks are available 24*7, but the relationship between consumers and corporates and banks is different.
It is now based upon information leverage.
In other words, banks now compete on their analytical engines and how these can maximise returns for their customers.
A little like the algorithmic trading machines of a century before, that optimised returns from trading in equities, banks have applied such techniques to customer data to optimise information usage and leverage for them.
This is provided on a free basis for basic services, such as keeping a tally of the credits and debits of your houses using electricity and car hydrogen, but information leverage for deposits, savings, investments and loans is provided on a percentage basis.
And this is where the banks have really been transformed.
Rather than making money from fees and charges to customers, banks make their profits from information leverage on the customers’ behalf.
This means that the more banks make customer information sweat, the more they earn.
For a retail bank, it means using the customers’ information – about their money but also their lifestyle, their social network, their family and relations, their home, their age, demographics, psychographics, geographics and more – is optimised to maximise their ability to cover all of their needs for a healthy and happy life.
For a commercial bank, it means using the corporate client’s data – about their money but also their business, their suppliers, their customer relationships, their supply chain, their working capital, their employees, their shareholders and more – and making sure that this information is optimised to maximise the ability of the business to succeed.
And for an investment bank, it means taking the above and making it work for the client, the customer, the bank and for the planet.
In 2110, banking is all about the interests of those that banks serve rather than those that they employ.
As a result, banks are loved again.