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Shaping the future of finance

Digital democratisation

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I was in a conversation with a regulator about bank competition, and they wondered how I saw banks changing. In particular, they were concerned about collegiate – read that as bank cartels – actions by the banks to protect their own interests.

I thought about it and said that I did not believe that banks could continue protectionist activities as everything would be democratised through technology. Everything from banks to governments to charities to business will be far more transparent than it has ever been, as technology gives access and truth.

What I mean by this is that the open sourcing of historically closed structures will give us far better knowledge about how those structure operate, who is involved, what they are doing and why. Digitalisation not only creates a record of activity but, if it is combined with distributed ledger technology, a record of truth. Every action can be recorded on the ledger, with immutability.

Equally, opening up closed structures to interoperate through APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) means that everyone can have access. Everyone can build smarter, better, more intelligent apps and services by combining the best of the world’s code with their code. This will make the world a better place, as companies will keep developing iterations of services, each one leveraging a new API that improves the customer experience.

Combining transparency through a record of truth with collaboration through an open API marketplace will lead to lower cost, improved services, that evolve continuously into a smart world of business, commerce and trade.

In relation to banking, this is already happening. FinTech start-ups that see inefficiencies in the banking system are already revamping that system through smart APIs. Square, Stripe, Venmo, Klarna, Alipay, WeChat Pay and more are all offering specialised services that do one thing really well and can be plugged into other things. This is the marketplace of 1,000’s of companies doing one thing really well, which will always outperform a proprietary development structure doing 1,000 things average.

As bright young things see how to deploy code that combines the curation of specialist APIs with distributed ledger records of truth, a new system emerges where nothing is sacred. No bank can protect itself from the onslaught of a continuum of improvements to APIs. Banks will find their services and products pushed into a transparent structure of comparison, where there’s no room to hide.

Anyone can put together a comparison site that takes bank APIs and shows apples compared with apples, the costs and fee structures, the features and functionality. And show the alternatives available from challengers and start-ups. In fact, some already are.

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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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