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SIBOS 20: Future of money: how it affects everyone, every business

Occasionally there are sessions at conferences or talks I listen to that remain in my mind for days and weeks, even months. I muse about them, I worry about them.

The Future of money debate at SIBOS this week was such a session. The debaters were:

  • Moderator: James Lloyd, APAC FinTech & Payments Leader, EY-Parthenon
  • David G.W. Birch, Principal, 15Mb Ltd and Global Ambassador to Consult Hyperion
  • Lana Swartz, Assistant Professor, University of Virginia; author of New Money: How Payment Became Social Media (Yale University Press 2020) and the co-editor of Paid: Tales of Dongles, Checks
  • Thomas Zschach, Chief Innovation Officer, SWIFT

The panel considered the social, political, economic and cultural implications of key financial technologies – as well as what the history of money can and cannot tell us about its future: from Bitcoin to Libra, from the ‘exorbitant privilege’ enjoyed by the US dollar to China’s central bank-issued digital currency, from cold hard cash to cold storage crypto.

Issues and ideas  thrown up in the debate included:

  • Is money a media technology?  
  • Now moving into an era where money is more diverse and is now mass media with multiple channels, a less central state-dominated
  • Today we are using many more monetary channels than we think, e.g. Airmiles, etc.
  • Dollar dominance: same as a pound dominance 150 years ago which disappeared, so will dollar dominance. The issue is not which currency dominates rather “are we going to be using currency at all?”
  • Money is memory; it is a substitute for remembering who owes what to whom
  • Internet and connected devices remember who owes what to whom, so will we need money in future?
  • Internet Of Things will change the whole role of money; no longer will men and women be the centre of most transactions. Machines will dominate most transactions
  • Changes in the economy is driving the changes in money because all becoming digital – e-commerce, payments, etc.
  • Central Bank Digital Currency: will change how we think of money, particularly programmable money
  • How will money operate in future: Swift is an affectionate tribute to 1970s, not obvious what it will do when getting CBDC; if decentralisation continues then why need whole payment infrastructure?
  • All technology revolution is additive not a revolution, BUT when getting revolution sometimes don’t even notice it!!
  • When things go digital other problems are created, e.g. impact of CBDC is not understood??
  • Who gets to decide and control? Who pushes back?: On programmable money? On dollar dominance?
  • Which currency accepted? The key driver is a matter of identity
  • Who sets terms of access/of the transaction? It will be driven by AI /machine learning but how to ensure vulnerable are protected?
  • Humans will no longer be the centre of payments
  • Major books recommended for reading to understand what is going on
  • Do not exclude people digitally or it could lead to a revolution.

CTMfile take: Superb. Simply mind-blowing session. Get someone who attended SIBOS or a friend at Swift to let you listen to this session. You won’t regret it.

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