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There’s a Starman … who needs a bank account

Yesterday I asked Is there Life on Mars as a tribute to my hero David Bowie. I originally titled that blog entry: Is there Life on Mars? No but there will be a bank there soon … as that blog made me realise that we are rapidly moving to being multiplanetary. That’s Elon Musk’s dream with SpaceX, but it’s not just his. It’s Richard Branson’s and Jeff Bezos’s and others. I guess the ultra-wealthy realise that we’ve screwed this planet so let’s screw another one and, whilst we do it, there’s money in them there stars.

This is the key. It’s nothing to do with fun or excitement about space. It’s about making money out of space and, as we create colonies on Mars and the Moon, they’re going to need a bank so let’s create a bank for space.

What would a bank for space look like?

I guess it would be pretty similar to a bank on Earth … regulated, licensed and organised for the digital age. Or would it be? It could be decentralised, democratised and defined by the digital age.

What bank would you create for space?

I guess the key questions would be:

  • What products and services are needed for people in space?
  • How would you build the customer experience and journey?
  • Where and when will space travellers needs financial services?
  • Who needs to service space travellers? and
  • What would be the structure and organisation?

There may be many more questions, and you may say but this is totally irrelevant for people on Earth,  but think about it. If you could build a bank for humans in space, then that bank would be far and away ahead of any bank on Earth (as mentioned on Tuesday) so, here’s a quick take on ideas.

Products and Services

Multiplanetary humans will need access to bank services anytime, anywhere, anytime. Oh, that sounds similar to Earth humans! Multiplanetary humans will also need strong support, in terms of beaming money through space, across borders. Oh, that sounds similar to Earth humans! Multiplanetary humans will need to know that they can move around easily, get home safely, travel with confidence and know that they will always be able to get hold of their bank when needed. Oh, that sounds similar to Earth humans!

Yes, you get the idea. A space bank is like an Earth bank, just built for interplanetary money movements rather than domestic ones.

The Customer Experience

The fact that most of a Mars resident’s financial service has to be delivered digitally, as there probably won’t be any bankers resident on Mars for the first few years, means that the customer experience and journey has to be designed to be purely digital. Oh, that sounds similar to now!

The fact that Mars residents will only get to access financial services remotely and digitally means that the apps, analytics, network and service needs to be 100% reliable, seamless and flawless. Oh, that sounds similar to now!

The Mars users will also be missing humans at home in their first years colonising the planet, and so they will need to connect with people easily through apps, to get questions answered and to ease their fears. Oh, that sounds similar to now!

Yea, you get the idea. The space bank is like an Earth bank, just built from scratch to recognise that the bank will never meet the customer face-to-face.

Service Agents

As mentioned, service agents won’t be in space but most service will be delivered remotely and digitally. Today, the majority of those remote services would be through chatbots but, tomorrow, it will be through chatbots and avatars. In fact, the avatar piece is a key. If you rarely see other humans, then seeing humans through holographic digital services will be the way in which you will still feel human.

Therefore, the Mars bank user will see their relationship managers as 3D entities in their cabins. The thing is that those 3D entities will be robots on video. Automated and animated, they will be able to absorb and answer four out of five questions automatically through automation, analytics and artificial intelligence.

It will only be when a space resident has a question outside the norm that they will need to speak to a human, which may be for one in five interactions.

You get the idea. The space bank is like an Earth bank, just built from scratch to recognise that the bank will never meet the customer face-to-face. Isn’t that the bank we should have built for the pandemic?

Organisational Structure

Because a space focused bank is based upon an organisation on Earth, they don’t need an office. They just need connectivity. They need to build a business based upon all customers connect with all employees who connect with all management who connect with all stakeholders and shareholders without ever actually meeting physically.

This means there is no such thing as a Head Office. The office is wherever the person is. There is no such thing as a Branch. The branch is in my hand. There may well be some service centres for those nervous about moving their money between Earth and Mars, so you would probably locate a few humans and operations in spaceports, where the human traffic occurs between one place and another.

Do you get the idea? The space bank is like an Earth bank, with an organisation built for work-from-home and service-from-home, just like this pandemic, but with a few supplementary physical spaces where the highest human footfall occurs. In other words, what I’ve just outlined here is a great way to reimagine your bank. Imagine you are building a bank for residents on Mars, serviced from Earth. That’s the bank you should have built over the last ten years and, if you didn’t, then build it now for the next ten years as it’s the only way to be an effective bank.

Ineffective banks will be acquired by effective banks. I guarantee it, and it is why I predicted that one of the challenger banks will eventually acquire a major big bank before 2030. So, if you want to build a bank for the future, run this workshop internally: what would our bank look like if we built it for customers living on Mars?



I titled this blog entry There’s a Starman … who needs a bank account … not sure David Bowie would appreciate that …




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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