Two weeks ago, the Future of Money and Technology Summit held in San Francisco offered a glimpse of powerful ways that technology can reshape the banking and financial user experience.
As organizer of GoodBank™(IO), I was on the Future of Banking panel, moderated by Laura Hertzfeld of American Public Media’s Economy Story, joining fellow panelists Rob Garcia of Lending Club, John Bates of MindArk, developers of the virtual Entropia Universe and Arno Hesse of the local currency project Bernal Bucks.
The Summit gathered a fantastic diversity of mobile, physical and virtual systems for aggregating, storing and moving into and out of money. Other panels demonstrated robust mobile payment and remittance solutions like M-via pioneered for developing economies, expense tracking solutions like pageonce and Expensify and near-field Bluetooth and Wifi solutions for point-of-sale / in-store purchasing.
Some news items provide an alternative context:
- BP’s ineffective Gulf of Mexico oil spill response dominated the week’s headlines, showing the environmental and economic and public health and recreation costs and risks so many will face for the mistakes of a few, with little effective relief in sight. Pause and ask: Who financed those BP oil rigs? What safety standards did the lenders and investors require?
- New York City’s Times Square and other sites received more bomb threats and plots. Pause and ask What is it about NYC that continues to be so attractive a terrorist target? If it’s the banking system headquartered there, why not diversify the system or innovate alternative systems as a matter of national infrastructure security?
- And on Thursday, Wall Streets’ computerized trading systems plunged the stock markets nearly 1,000 points in 15 minutes, leading to more calls for financial reform, and leaving old hands in the banking world pausing and asking Can the banking system be trusted?
What if, headquartered here in Silicon Valley, we created a better banking system? What would it look like? How much more transparent and accountable, safe and secure, would and could it be? Would the transparency be predatory for targeting psychographics, or mutual, so that consumers could see what companies see about how money moves? Would the New Wall Street banks be more responsive and responsible, looking to avoid environmental and social impacts that breed sectarian resentment for America?
The dichotomy is growing wider between what is and what should be banking . The impacts of what we’ve accepted as the status quo for banking and finance have created too much fragility, spanning too many lives, regions and issues of environmental and social concern, accelerating at a pace, camouflaged in digital form.
I’m curating/convening TEDxNewWallStreet x = an independently organized TED event to explore what kind of technology, user experience and design (TED) we really want in a modern bank and non-bank system for financing U.S. families, businesses, nonprofits, universities, social entrepreneurs and local governments.
Based on the past two weeks’ events, Silicon Valley has plenty of room to innovate alongside and beyond the visions and inertia of existing players in the U.S. banking and financial system.