For a brief period, in the chaotic wake of the Global Financial Crisis, Occupy Wall Street hinted at the possibility that capitalism could be changed for the better.
Most of us lost total faith in the ability or will of our so-called leaders to think beyond their own interests — or more specifically, their own wallets. At the time, I joined hundreds of thousands of people around the world and took to the streets and social media in protest.
It was more than Anonymous masks and millennial whingeing. We were angry for a reason. We felt at the mercy of major centralised banks and wealth managers who were able to take our money and do whatever they wanted with it. Fund fossil fuels, or fuel a right wing political agenda. Lobby for old white billionaires to continue ruling the world.
Most of a decade later, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this anger had fizzled out. Actually though, the contrary is true — now more than ever, we have the ability to change our relationship with money for the better. And, more crucially, take back our control of it. Bitcoin is trending on Twitter because people are understandably excited about it: alternate forms of currency, and alternative forms of managing currency, are becoming mainstream. Financial technology, otherwise known as fintech, is just getting started.
But how do we make sure the new system is less corrupt than the old? We do so by understanding the opportunities that lie in front of us and getting the right people involved.
How the system is changing, for the better. Maybe it feels like it’s happening slowly, but the world’s financial systems are getting shaken up. Whether it’s regulatory changes in Australian following the success in the UK. Or new, disruptive technologies such as blockchain. It is unquestionable that we are entering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for change.
Here’s what excites me most:
Democratising banking: Sick of your money passively funding fossil fuels, or Big Tobacco, or weapons, or gambling? Envision a utopian style of democratic banking where you’ll be able to switch banks and divest in a matter of clicks. Your ethics are back in your hands. In Australia, open banking and the New Payments Platform, expected to be implemented during 2018, will make transferring funds or switching between institutions almost instantaneous. As consumers have more power to change between services, banks will be forced to clean up their acts and become more accountable.
Democratising currencies: Digital wallets will soon be the norm, and allow you to spend seamlessly between an endless number of currencies, whether it is fiat, crypto or other. The convergence of traditional and new currencies via a shared digital platform will help create a more equal playing field, and gradually take our dependence off the US dollar.
Democratising investments: We’ll be able to make every idle dollar work harder. Rather than your savings being invested on your behalf into industries like fossil fuels, gambling, tobacco and warfare, you’ll be able to connect your savings account to a robo-advisor/investor, bypassing middlemen (stockbrokers) who can’t match the speed and intelligence of a dynamic algorithm, to invest into industries you care about such as education, health and renewable energy.
On top of this, you’ll have increased opportunities to fund startups directly via crowd equity platforms or ICO’s underpinned by blockchain technologies. Such lucrative investments were mostly made available by VC’s, which only fattened the wallets of few. In contrast, we’ve now entered a time of unprecedented wealth redistribution. It will now be easier than ever for the public to access what the very rich and very connected 1% have.
You can take action. What does this mean to you, right now? Well, we have the opportunity to create a new system built on strong principles rather than inequality and predatory practices.
The burgeoning fintech scene needs more purpose-driven individuals from diverse backgrounds to jump in and represent the people — if we don’t, the incumbents will. Back in 2008, it was difficult to see what the solution was. Now, I’m overwhelmed by the shear talent and brilliance across the world racing to revolutionise the global financial system.
The iconic American thinker and inventor Buckminster Fuller encouraged creative individuals to take down the system by building a new one, rather than just complain on the periphery:
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Occupy isn’t over. If we play our cards right, this is just the beginning of a movement that could create vast change.
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