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Shaping the future of finance

It’s about behaviours, not technology

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So I visit a tradeshow last week focused upon the future of payments, and everyone is presenting their latest mobile apps and designs.  "That's not the future of money", I fume silently at the back.  Then we had a mention of bitcoin and my ears pricked up.  Oh, it's a bitcoin mobile app.


I guess I get wound up about these things for no darn good reason other than my own frustrations.

You see mobile, tablet, bitcoin, contactless and all that good stuff is not really what the future is about.  The future is about humanity.  The future of payments is about designing great and engaging human experiences, enabled by technology but not focused upon the technology.

That sounds a bit wacky: how can you design a great human experience with a technology if you're not focused upon the technology, but that's the point.  It was illustrated well by one speaker who said that their rollout of contactless mobile was a waste of money.  No-one used it.

Reason: it was not easier than using a contactless card, so they used the card instead.  Customers could not see the added benefit of touching a payment point with their mobile versus with a card. 

In fact, we have seen a lot of rollouts of a lot of technology in banking and I'm not so sure that many think it through.  This is the point of my presentations, which is not to devalue mobile and bitcoin developments as these are fundamental and important, but to change the focus from these current forms of technology across to what these form factors represent and where they might be going next.

The core of these form factors is that one works for an engaging human experience, whilst the other does not.  Mobile smartphones represent the final, intuitive outcome of years of technology.  Going back to the original Univac computers and their brethren in the 1950s, technology form factors have moved from mainframe to PC to mobile and, in that process, from very difficult to very easy to use.  That is why you don't need a manual to use a smartphone.

Bitcoin is unfortunately stuck in the challenging mode today.  Give it a few years and it will be as intuitive to use as a smartphone, and then it will be pervasive and persuasive.  But it won’t take off with the general mass of the populous in its current form.

Which brings me back to the form factors of consumer behaviour in the future.  Today it is smartphone and apps.  Tomorrow it will be chips in everything and a connected economy through the internet of things.

So how will consumer behaviours change when anything can make a payment from a shoe to a wall to wig to a car? What designs would your bank rollout if you could engage a human experience anywhere with anything? And will you be talking about a payment in the future or an exchange of value? That final question is a really fundamental one as we focus today on mobile payments but tomorrow we should consider connected value, as that's what Bitcoin really represents.

A virtual store that represents a unitised amount for the digital exchange of value.

Not the easiest thing to say but, what I mean by value exchange, is that if we were designing systems for tomorrow that focused upon the connected economy where value can be exchanged in many form factors - money, bitcoins, World of Warcraft gold, a share of an iTune, a gift of an amazon book, an idea - then you would change your whole mind-set of bank thinking.

We would not think about payments and devices at all, but the behaviours of humans who are enabled by the digital world to have the connection with anything to exchange anything that represents a value to the receiver.

Is anyone even thinking this way?

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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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