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Shaping the future of finance

What the Finternet?

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The Bank of International Settlements (BIS), the guys who create the Basel rules and control much of the way the global banking system works, released a paper the other day about the Finternet:the financial system for the future”.

The idea is that all of the financial world will connect through unified ledgers integrated by internet-based systems. Here’s the outline of the paper:

Focus

Advances in digital technology have transformed people's lives in recent decades. But large swathes of the financial system are stuck in the past. Many transactions still take days to complete and rely on time-consuming clearing, messaging and settlement systems and physical paper trails. Improving the functioning of the financial system is thus an important public policy objective. But building a financial system fit for the future requires a vision for what we want to achieve.

Contribution

We propose the concept of the "Finternet" as a vision for the future financial system: multiple financial ecosystems interconnected with each other – much like the internet. The Finternet would be designed to empower individuals and businesses by placing them at the centre of their financial lives. Unified ledgers are a promising vehicle to turn this vision into reality. Grounded on a digital-first approach and leveraging tokenisation, unified ledgers would improve existing financial transactions, but also make entirely new financial products and transactions possible. We describe the economic rationale for the Finternet as well as its required technical, regulatory and legal building blocks. In addition, we lay out eight fundamental design considerations that we feel should be a core part of the future financial system, namely:

  • Users at the centre
  • Interoperability
  • Evolvability
  • Modularity
  • Scalability
  • Division of labour and competition
  • Inclusiveness and accessibility
  • Security and privacy

Findings

We identify three necessary components: an efficient economic and financial architecture, the application of cutting-edge digital technology and a robust legal and governance framework. Unified ledgers are a promising vehicle to deliver on all three. In particular, by bringing together multiple financial assets in a single venue, they could vastly reduce the need for lengthy messaging and clearing processes, thereby delivering more efficient and reliable services for users.

It’s worth a read for those of you studying the banking system from the outside-in. Oh, and just in case I’ve not convinced you to click yet, here’s the full abstract:

This paper lays out a vision for the Finternet: multiple financial ecosystems interconnected with each other, much like the internet, designed to empower individuals and businesses by placing them at the centre of their financial lives. It advocates for a user-centric approach that lowers barriers between financial services and systems, thus promoting access for all. The envisioned system leverages innovative technologies such as tokenisation and unified ledgers, underpinned by a robust economic and regulatory framework, to dramatically expand the range and quality of financial services. This integration aims to foster greater participation, offer more personalised services and improve speed and reliability, all while reducing costs for end users. Most of the technology needed to achieve this vision exists and is fast improving, driven by efforts around the world. This paper provides a blueprint for how key technical characteristics like interoperability, verifiability, programmability, immutability, finality, evolvability, modularity, scalability, security and privacy can be incorporated, and how varied governance norms can be embedded. Delivering this vision requires proactive collaboration between public authorities and private sector institutions.

The paper serves as a call for action for these entities to establish a strong foundation. This would pave the way for a user-centric, unified and universal financial ecosystem brought into the digital era that is inclusive, innovative, participatory, accessible and affordable, and leaves no one behind.

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

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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