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To 2020 … and beyond

Looking beyond 2020, there has been a rise of quite a number of folks looking to the longer-term future. Here’s the key ones I’ve picked up on so far.

First is Royal Bank of Canada with their Imagine 2025 series. Quite an investment and lots of interviews and insights. The main report talks about six key trends:

The Calibrated and Augmented Self: the concept that the “average consumer” is vanishing as machine and quantum computing learn and predict behaviors, leading to hyper-personalized products and services, and the ability for mass customization with less friction.

The Artificial Intelligence Race: software, enabled by machine learning (training algorithms on input data) and deep learning (using neural networks) can replicate and eventually surpass human cognition.

In Cloud We Trust: the adoption and utilization of cloud technology is rapidly changing the landscape of corporate IT as well as corporate competition across industries.

Collective Action: democratized power has never been greater given technology and the viral speed with which social sharing can occur.

Escalating Uncertainties: even as we struggle with a staggering amount of change, we can envision a future where this change goes parabolic, heightening uncertainty and expanding the list of threats and challenges posed to the world’s nations, institutions, and corporations.

Agility Imperative: the increasing need for companies to be flexible and able to quickly adapt to the societal change forces.

But there’s a whole load more on the website, including a specific discussion on the future of financial services and lots more.

For example, this series came to my attention due to an interview with ING CEO Ralph Hamers, who clearly gets my discussion around purpose-driven banking.

Next are these forecasts from The World Economic Forum, who asked members of their Global Future Councils – academics, business leaders and members of civil society – to imagine a world in 2030 that is better than 2020. As a result, most of the forecasts are about renewable energy, less inequality, more inclusion, digital for everyone and such like. In fact, there are thirty forecasts here, but my favourite is #19 as, yet again, it builds on my theme of purpose-driven banking.

A new kind of capitalism takes root by Sonja Haut, head of strategic measurement and materiality, Novartis

In 2030, a new economy is established that addresses the needs of all stakeholders – communities, vendors, customers, employees and company owners. This new breed of new capitalism is enabled thanks to a new way of assessing the performance of companies based on a valuation of their overall impact – a change in which policymakers and standard-setters have played a crucial role. Governments, stock markets and businesses fully embrace the new order that has given rise to a thriving new type of public-private partnership.

This new type of public-private partnership has allowed mankind to effectively address major challenges and to resolve some of them; extreme poverty belongs to the past, as do increasing CO2 emissions levels and the huge volumes of plastic in the ocean. There have been improvements in tackling other challenges, too; forced labour, child labour and corruption – to name a few – have been significantly reduced.

The new way of assessing business performance is based on standardized, comprehensive and simple impact-valuation metrics. These enhance the usual financial statements with other dimensions like society, human rights and the environment, leading to a ‘total impact’ rating that is used by management and investors alike. Governments appreciate ‘total impact’ as key information in understanding the relevance of a sector and individual business, beyond the GDP and employment figures that were the dominant measures of wealth contribution 10 years ago. ‘Total impact’ is a simple way of assessing how much a sector or a business contributes to social coherence, citizens’ wellbeing, environmental protection and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Consumers and investors appreciate the transparency that ‘total impact’ provides for each product.

Impact valuation expresses what matters in monetary terms, allowing the full range of stakeholders to agree what ‘good’ looks like – in the economy and in society.

Then there is Deutsche Bank – yes, they do still exist – who are also thinking about 2030. In a useful research document titled Imagine 2030, they begin by saying:

A staggering list of incorrect ’decade-ahead’ predictions litter history. In the 1970s, some expected gold to lose all value in the era of fiat money. In the 1980s, most believed quartz watches would completely replace the mechanical sort. In the 1990s, a host of publishers rejected the Harry Potter manuscript, while in the 2000s, internet buffs said remote working would end the office.

Herein lies the trouble with most ’decade-ahead’ predictions. Either, they merely extrapolate current, well-known trends, or they are so outlandish it is impossible to see a link between now and the future …

To start, we take a deep breath and predict that several underappreciated forces that have held together the global fiat money system may unravel in the 2020s. We also point out the three things Europe must do over the coming decade to avoid falling further behind its peers. Furthermore, while global debt accumulation is sustainable with low rates, populism and helicopter money may lead to a debt crisis.

Beyond economics, there seems to be no question that our response to climate change will permeate through every aspect of society over the coming decade. We postulate that although the hurdles to effective international agreement are high, there is realistic and pragmatic cause for optimism.

We then consider how a 2030-ite will live with everything on-demand, and against the backdrop of the seismic changes that quantum computing supremacy could bring. We also see the supply of food, not the demand, changing global food supply chains. Separately, while critics bemoan cryptocurrencies as constrained by regulatory hurdles, we believe the incentives of governments and card providers are such that digital currencies are inevitable. Furthermore, we also pour cold water on autonomous cars, but see an explosion in electrification.

Without question, the biggest political shock of the 2010s was the rise of populism and, particularly, the changes in the US and UK. Given many claim these shifts were obvious in retrospect, we point out several of today’s ignored signs that may drive seismic political change by 2030.

Perhaps the most inevitable change of the coming decade is the ageing population. That implies precision medicine will be an inevitable winner. Yet, there are external forces that may stop it going mainstream.

The 2020s may also bid farewell to several things ingrained in our world. We predict the end of plastic credit cards, the end of high profit margins, and the end of low corporate tax rates.

What of the fate of a third of the world’s population? Indeed, many expect the Chinese and Indian economies to slow in the 2020s. Yet, China’s decades tend to be defined by themes such as exports or investment. The coming decade will be defined by consumption and we explain why the untapped potential of the Chinese consumer is vastly underappreciated. Meanwhile, India’s recent structural reforms mean it could become one of the world’s leading sources of middle-class demand.

Interesting and worth a read, as it builds on my reflections that no one could have guessed just how much the world would have changed by 2020 back in 2010. What will 2030 look like? Even more amazingly, what will 2040 look like?

That’s a question that a young film director asked, and wondered whether technology could transform our landscape of emissions and climate. He’s made a full-length feature film envisioning this idea called 2040. Here’s the trailer (2m14s):

And if you really want to immerse yourself in 2040, watch BBC Click’s coverage about the film (28m34s).

So, 2025, 2030, 2040 … what will the future look like …


… you’ll just have to wait and see.

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, 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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