Banks of future will be a financial product marketplace

Today when we think of loan or a financial product, the first thing that comes in our mind is bank. You want to have mortgage, go to banks, you want to have credit card, go to bank, you want to make a deposit, you go to bank, you want to wire, you go to bank. Though many may argue that they use online banking but that’s still a bank and unless there is a very strong reason for you to go to a 3rd party, you try to consolidate financial matters through one single institute & the first choice is bank.

Their brand power, accessibility & trust factor is unprecedented. 3rd party vendors are not more than your corner convenience store where you go when you need something in emergency, but weekly/monthly grocery is through Walmart or any big retail store. While price is certainly a factor, availability everything under one roof is also very convenient. Same is the case with bank however as opposed to big shop pricing discount services at bank are often expensive as opposed to 3rd party. There is a premium to exchanging currency or do a wire transfer. Though lot of it is attributed towards the fact that they can charge that premium without churning a big chunk of their business, but the other factor is high operational expense that they’ve to occur. While our parents were used to banks, we’re using a combination of services to well fit our need, but it’s diluting the dependence on bank. As the shift grows banks have to take a different approach competing with startups & they’re well poised to do so.

While they’ve the customer base, well capitalized and have the infrastructure & regulatory clearance.  They however may lack the thirst to innovation & are slow to move. I however think that the best approach for them is to partner up with startups & built a marketplace.

Now while banks have their own arrangements and partnership for every product they offer, they do operate more like a close loop system, but I think it’s time to change it. They should instead turn into a hub to offer multiple services. May be like Amazon but white label. At the moment they’re operating more like United Airways but what if they shift their model to Expedia with a white label badge. You want to transfer money from A to B, you’re presented with 2 options. Be there in 4 hours, it’s cost $10, be there in 2 days, cost $1. On backend banks have APIs of startups which provide those services and banks can use those startups to find the most efficiency way to perform a specific service. Win for banks and win for customers. Customer churn rate will reduce and banks will keep their branding.

There has been recent cases where banks have partnered up with startups providing them the branding but if they do it well, they should just actively pursue it as a business line. I don’t expect big banks to buy into this idea soon, but the one that does will emerge as a winner and won’t provide space to startups to displace them.

My bank of future will have very few branches and will have partnered up with 100s of startups offering services and competiting for best quality & cost.

Let’s see who that’ll be in 5-10 years

2019-05-22T21:47:21+00:00May 22nd, 2019|

Decentralized Open Finance

I wrote about Trust & it’s importance in the last blog post here. I’ll try to cover more on Open Financial also known as decentralized financial systems AKA DEFI. You can pickup thee term as per your liking but as much they’re interchangeable they’re also subset of each other depending on the reference that you apply.

An open system can be decentralized or centralized depending on your definition of centralization & same with openness where it could have so much high barrier to entry so it’s not truly open. Example is being a bitcoin miner where you can’t participate unless you run a very sizeable operation. Theoretically it’s decentralized but there are couple of entities that control majority of the hashing power.

Trust in finance is super important & that’s the basic of any transaction.

When you look at all the financial system around us, we believe they’re open, but they’re not regardless if they’re in developing or developed country. They’re operating more like silos. They do interact but with permission very inefficiently. If you had to transfer money from one bank to another bank in us, it’s quite doable but you’re at the mercy of bottle necks involved in every party involved in the transaction.  I still have restrictions in performing multiple tasks that require branch visit. We do have SWIFT, Interac, SEPA & other systems which are comparable to protocols but they’re inefficient with no visibility into the process.  There’s a reason why majority of the world is unbanked because cost of banking is high. There is an argument that unbanked don’t need a bank because they are poor but in fact they’re poor because of barrier to financial tools.

To bring down cost of banking or access to other financial tools, unbundling of the system has to be done & DeFi makes it possible. I’ll give you example of how that can be done. Right now if you look a the process of loan origination, there are mainly 3 parties at a financial institute that make it happen. They’re

  • Debt Raiser
  • Debt Issuer
  • Underwriter

Debt issuer makes the business case for the loan, while underwriter assess & approves the risk & loan, and debt raiser finds the money to fund the loan. Though they all belong to same institutes but there is a friction between them since they’re responsible for their own departments. Now hypothetically what if all three work independently and are able to scout outside their institute, that’ll ultimately benefit the customer. Chances of success are much higher due to participation of more and more players. Now the biggest pain point here is trust. Would they trust each other now that they’re dealing with outsiders ?

That’s where DeFi & protocols become important. Now I’ve simplified it a lot, but this is how it’s supposed to work. E-Mail is based on Simple Mail Transfer Protocol

(SMTP) which is common across the globe so your interface can be whatever you like it be but for transmission it has to follow SMTP standards.

I’ve been particularly excited about Decentralized exchanges & protocols which empower small players to build interesting applications. ERC20 based tokens on top of ethereum were a success which lead to thousands of applications being built serving different used cases. While different chains don’t talk to each other at the moment, but that’s going to change in coming days.

No one size fits all and that’s the case with financial apps too. Needs are different based on demographics so niche apps are required to serve them well. While protocols are scary for the majority but  there isn’t any neeed to be paranoid about the utility. What percentage of people around us knows how does SMTP work. They just use gmail, Hotmail etc.
It wasn’t possible to transact online without using a 3rd party. Decentralized exchanges make it easy. Now we have tools to hedge, lend, borrow that are gaining popularity on the internet as well. I am very excited about this development because it opens up the financial world to everyone with internet access, which is billions of us. Local, national, international all can enjoy the tools without any discrimination. 

Coming back to trust issue where I laid the importance of trust in financial transactions. Protocols make this job easy & playing field for every participant. As long as you satisfy the protocol rules, you’re in. Your app doesn’t need to have a track record of centuries or decades to participate. Rules of pedigree are broken here.

 Status quo enjoys the trust, regulatory barriers & support of the top movers & shakers but soon their kingdom will be challenged. There’ll be a revolt by the millennials where they’ll move to alternative options which probably will be built on decentralized financial system which is open, non-discriminatory and fair to to every one. It’ll be a war where incumbents have to innovate, competitive to a very rare breed of smart and intelligent engineers globally who’re building tech apps to serve the customers much better.  I expect majority of the incumbents to give up or find intelligent ways to build partnership & integrate into the decentralized system.

Some of these things might look alien, tails from utopia but there is serious work in progress where transactions are growing with more and more participation from community and institutes alike. Tech companies have tendency to go parabolic once they find market fit & I expect this the case here as well.

2019-05-12T19:23:43+00:00May 12th, 2019|

Trust & Decentralized Finance – DeFi

There’s a famous saying

“It takes ages to build trust & seconds to destroy it”

Trust is super important for any aspect of life.

Our economy is built on trust. We interact directly or indirectly with external factors throughout our day based on the trust that they’ll perform as we expect. With passage of time, trusts get stronger & stronger which leads to higher confidence in our own ability to perform. During any transaction, trust is super important. Once it’s established the transaction goes through smoothly.

In ancient times, humans primarily only depend on their small tribe with less need to involve a foreign element but with passage of times as the civilization have evolved, we have to work with unknown parties on daily basis. Our modern economy is built on multiple layers of trust where we are trusting the system to perform as we expect.

Due to my interest in Finance, I’ll focus on that portion only where the biggest example is the bank who controls our money. Regardless of whichever bank you see, there is generally a sense of trust and credibility. There is very rarely a thought that the bank will just shut down tomorrow or run with your money. We also have insurance where we do expect them to pay us whenever we have a claim. There are also government institutes where we believe they’ll be watching out for the bad actors and protecting us if some thing goes wrong.

This all system is TRUST. Though we actually can count couple of the institutes, they themselves are depending on multiple other. Living in a systematic society and 1st world country, we’re used to trust and certainly take it for granted. It’s like the water that would come when we open the tap; because that’s how I’ve seen since I am born.

With globalization, we’ve to trust international players as well as new entrants. Majority of time we don’t have an option or have no other choice. Recently there has been multiple cases where the trust has been shattered for the masses, sometime deliberately some time by accident. Example of deliberate would be company selling your data to a 3rd party without your consent or manipulating your opinions while in accidents where they genuinely were hacked. While I’ve been fairly cautious, I can’t possibly live off the grid.

My first encounter with crypto was 7 year ago and have to admit that it wasn’t a conscious decision but with passage of time I’ve gone deeply in love with the philosophy of open networks, cryptography and free-market economy. While there hasn’t been a single school or thought or system which has been able to put things in order on global scale, it’s hard to resist admiring a system which is built on such fairness. I won’t say it’s the utopia I dream of, but much better than other monetary systems which we have.

It wasn’t possible in the past to deploy such a grand operational financial system purely based on trust and cryptographic algorithms. Bitcoin network is running for more than a decade with the maximum uptime possible without any singular authority. Recently I came across a report which said that 1 in 5 American own a cryptographic asset. That’s massive because it may be in top few spots when it comes to an asset class. In case of bitcoin, you don’t care who generated the bitcoin or how much effort he has to put in, as long as network accepts it, it’s part of the system.

If you look at this behavioral change where the entire system is flat level field for all the participant, this put disadvantage the status quo at a massive disadvantage. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are an experiment and relatively in the industry, but the impacts on economy & behavior are very undervalued. Companies and individuals are building and contributing towards a system with a self-rewarding schema that’s designed without any flaw. Yes there are needs for improvement but the philosophy behind it can be replicated towards other fields of life.

Crypto has built a trust that didn’t exist in the past and is only getting better from here. Systems will improve & I expect a hyperbolic economic shift due to induction of new products, ideas through collaboration.

World is turning out to be more equal playing field and should get more flatter from here on. This is healthier and with more financial openness, we’ll have a much better world .

I am really looking forward to decentralized financial systems AKA DEFI

2019-05-04T19:40:30+00:00May 4th, 2019|