I was having a recent conversation with Pat Allan about the future of money, and how someone might approach the task of buildig a bank with the benefit of what we know about how money works today. We discussed Matt Mullenwag’s past idea about creating Safe Bank. Eddie Harran ran a Trampoline session on it. Ross Hill also recently commented via his Letter.ly about the future of money, which I responded to with these thoughts.
From a user point of view, what banks provide us is actually just a scoreboard. When you break the features a bank provides down into user stories it looks something like this.
Nb: These user stories are written in the structure; as a ‘user,’ I want ‘this,’ so I can do ‘that.’
- As a person who earns money, I need a place where I can reference how much money I have at the moment, so I can understand how much or little I have.
- As a person who has money, I need to be able to use that money at any time, so I can buy things that I need.
- As a person who has earned money, I need to provide someone with a way to pay me, so I can collect money safely in one place.
- As a person who owes someone else money, I want to be able to transfer it to them, so I can pay my debts.
- As a bank, I need to ensure the security of peoples money score, so that they trust us to continue keeping it.
Can you think of any others? Could we delete any of the above?
I think this is interesting to consider, because of the base needs we have around our use of money and how many of them have changed with the passing of time. Indeed, we are more and more often seeing people use their ‘capital’ in a variety of ways which create benefit for themselves, their peers and the planet at large. Things Iike Kiva, Kickstarter and Square are changing the way we disburse our capital – which in fact changes the different ways banks need to assist with the transferral of ‘points.’
Note that you actually don’t need a lot of the abstractions which a ‘bank’ provides on top of this. You don’t *really* need to pay interest (although banks have consistantly setteled on this method to profit from customers). You don’t need to collect interest (although that can be useful). You don’t really need physical branches, unless you don’t trust that the ‘bank’ is able to deliver on the above stories with reliability.
In the past, these layers of abstraction were rightfully required to deal with the complexities of distributing physical cash wherever people needed to send or receive it. This problem no longer exists. It’s 2010, and we have the ability to rethink many of the services we’ve taken as utilities for far too long.
How would you reinvent the idea of a bank?