Revolutionary Measures

The future of money

The internet has radically changed how we bank, removing the need to physically visit and turning a thousand and one redundant branches into All Bar Ones and Wetherspoons. But the actual mechanics of transferring money around haven’t really changed. Through a combination of regulation and the sheer complexity of the financial world most of us still entrust our money to a bank and use their systems to move it around. There are some notable new entrants, such as PayPal, and smaller banks, like Metro Bank, have been launched, but the majority of transactions still go through the same channels as before. The only change being that we do the work ourselves online rather than queuing up for hours in a draughty branch behind the man from the arcade paying in his weekly takings one penny at a time.

Twenty pound notes

But most people recognise that the banking system doesn’t deliver the flexibility or mobility that technology can underpin. So how do you do banking without the banks? One way would be to make it simple to transfer money from person to person using a web-based platform that the majority of the world is a member of. Step forward Facebook, which has applied to the regulator in Ireland to launch e-money across Europe. This would allow people to transfer money to others on the social network as well as to buy things online. The combination of Facebook’s reach and brand could provide stiff competition to the likes of Western Union. However those worried about privacy may baulk at giving Facebook access to their bank details in any way, shape or form.

A second way is to change the currency altogether and allow payments and transfers through new forms of money, such as Bitcoin. However, the danger of an unregulated market has come back to haunt Bitcoin, with exchanges mysteriously emptied of money and government concern that the currency is used to pay for drugs, arms and sundry Bad Things.

Now the banking industry itself has come up with a third way. Paym, has been created by umbrella body the Payments Council and enables money to be transferred by simply typing in the phone number of the recipient, provided they are also registered on the service. Fast, direct and no need to give out your bank details to other people through insecure channels such as email. However it looks like the banks themselves are unconvinced by the possibility of doing themselves out of a job. 20 million account holders of RBS (and its subsidiaries NatWest, Ulster Bank, Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks), as well as First Direct, won’t be able to use the scheme until later in the year, while Nationwide’s five million customers will have to wait until 2015. RBS says it is prioritising getting its IT systems straight, after several high profile meltdowns, before joining.

With more and more of our money transferred online to friends and relatives who are further and further away from us, we need options that make it easy to transfer money simply, and quickly. But given our previous bad experiences with banks, will it be Facebook that steals a march and becomes the new financial hub for the internet age? Either way, consumers should benefit through genuine choice and hopefully better service, whoever they pick.

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April 30, 2014 Posted by | Marketing, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A pocketful of Coins

English: Coins from Bosnia, Slovenia, Hungary,...

One of the early predictions from internet futurologists was that it would enable completely new ways of doing business. This included the creation of new corporate currencies that could be easily traded online, bypassing traditional pounds, dollars and euros. So you could swap your Tesco Clubcard points for Airmiles or buy goods directly on the web using your Nectar card.

Obviously some of this has happened, but the dream of virtual currencies have either remained niche (such as Bitcoin) or crashed and burned (Beenz). But this could be about to change with Amazon’s launch of Coins, a new currency/loyalty scheme aimed at users of its Kindle Fire. From May, consumers in the US will be able to buy apps and games using Coins, which have a face value of a cent. To stimulate the new currency Amazon is promising to give away ‘tens of millions’ of dollars worth of Coins to consumers, which they can spend on Kindle app content.

While it is early stages this is a smart move by Amazon. Firstly, it is likely to get consumers spending more. As casinos know if you can make people feel that the currency they are using isn’t real money (in their case gambling chips) then they treat it with less respect and are more willing to wager it. Secondly, it will attract more developers to create apps for the Kindle through Amazon specifically as they benefit from greater revenues.

But where it will potentially get really interesting is when (not if) Amazon extends Coins to the rest of its products and services. Pricing books, DVDs and the million and one other things Amazon sells in Coins, possibly at a slight discount to local currency, will stimulate a whole new economy that Amazon has a lot more control over. And given the thousands of independent merchants who sell goods via Amazon Marketplace the potential power of this new trading bloc will bring other retailers on board – for example offline shops offering the chance to buy goods in Coins rather than sterling.

At the very least Coins provides a powerful loyalty scheme for Amazon – it can’t be a coincidence that the retailer has just cut its long standing ties with Nectar in the UK. Tying in users means Amazon can learn even more about them and consequently offer more tailored products and services (Amazon Telecom perhaps?), enabling it to continue its expansion. Given the havoc Amazon has already wreaked on the High Street, rivals (and even banks) should make sure they are closely watching the next step in its plans………….

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February 6, 2013 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments