At 17, Vitalik Buterin, a mathematics and programming prodigy, started to uncover the vast potential of blockchain. He saw a prodigious opportunity to circumvent intermediaries in the exchange of assets and make transactions dramatically quicker, cheaper, simpler and more transparent. Buterin went on to develop Ethereum, the open-source, public, blockchain-based distributed computing platform for developers that went live in July 2015.
Just two years later, Calastone, a financial technology company, announced it is actively involved in testing the feasibility of blockchain to develop a common global marketplace for the frictionless trading and settlement of mutual funds.
Such is the momentum behind blockchain that 30 big banks have joined an alliance to develop a private Ethereum Blockchain – recognizing, they need to make blockchain work for them (as opposed to bury them). In 2017, ICICI Bank carried out India’s first international trade transaction and overseas remittances using blockchain.
The opportunities which the blockchain technology presents are huge and this is opening the door to new commercial possibilities and revenue streams.
NEW DAWN OF FINANCIAL SERVICES
The Institute for the Future (IFTF) believes that we are entering the next era of human-machine partnerships. We have lived and worked alongside machines for centuries but by 2030, these partnerships will be more interwoven and immersive than ever before. Technology will work as an extension of people, turning humans into digital conductors.
We are seeing this play out in financial services companies’ efforts to raise their service levels. Emerging technologies – defined by IFTF as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) and cloud technologies – clubbed with human genius, are transforming financial services by reducing costs, automating mundane tasks, mitigating risk and creating opportunities to reach out to new customers. For example, by 2030, with cognitive computing at the helm (intelligent, self-learning technology platforms that mimic human behavior) most people will have a virtual personal assistant to service their everyday banking needs.
OPEN SOURCING FINANCIAL SERVICES
Banks have always been the leviathans of the financial services industry, but a different generation of competitors – led by millennials – is turning the industry on its head. While the emergence of non-traditional banking ecosystems will make the customer experience far more seamless, traditional banking services will mesh with non-traditional banking services, pulling in data from a plethora of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Customers will instigate a transaction using an authenticated body part (voice, face) and a whole cascade of appropriate actions will be triggered. Highly complex and powerful algorithms will do the heavy lifting in the background while the customer experience in the foreground will seem almost inconsequential. And if they have any questions, a hologram will be at their disposal.
ASIA-PAC TO TAKE LEAD
IFTF’s forecasts for the future pivots on emerging technologies’ seemingly limitless potential to redraw our world. Large parts of THE Asia-Pacific region are undergoing rapid growth and industrialization while enjoying the benefits of being, relatively-speaking, legacy free. This is also encouraging several Indian banks to use blockchain to carry out international trade transactions and overseas remittances. This has also led to Indian startups, like Primechain Technologies, to create blockchain solutions in anti-money laundering, cross border payments, asset registry and syndication of loans.
In fact, in 2016, more than 32 blockchain firms were founded in India, according to audit and consultancy firm PwC. Apart from Primechain and Signzy, MindDeft Technologies, Sofocle, Trestor, KrypC and Hashcove are some startups designing and creating end-to-end blockchain solutions in India.
A PLACE FOR HUMANS
While the world economy is clearly embracing emerging technologies, the authentic human element is still important. Betterment, the poster child of robo-advice, recently announced a new hybrid service that pairs human help with computerized financial advice.
So, how do we equip the workforce with computational skills, so they can communicate with and trouble-shoot their automated team members? What checks and balances should we put in place to ensure we don’t become subservient to the ways machines pre-empt our needs?
Rather than seeing the future as one of two conflicting realities, the blindingly pessimistic view that AI spells mass unemployment and the overly optimistic assumption that technology equals panaceas for all social and environmental ills, we need to prepare for a future in which people forge meaningful partnerships with machines.
Anshuman Rai is Director Sales, Converged Platform & Solutions Division, Dell EMC