I remember old-fashioned banking when clients walked in and were given money on trust, writes Farid Tabarki.
When I worked at a bank in The Hague one summer as a teenager, ladies in pearls would come in to take out a couple of thousand guilders as a birthday present for their nephews. A nod from a colleague told me to hand over the money, although sometimes I was intrepid enough to ask for some form of identification; anything, a library pass would do.
In those days, the obligation to carry ID was regarded as a means of oppression, and rightly so. Didn’t the Germans introduce an ‘Ausweispflicht’ in 1941? Things like phishing and skimming hadn’t eroded trust yet.
But times – and technologies – change. I don’t think my holiday job from 1994 still exists. No one goes into a bank to be handed over money by a clerk anymore. The danger to the traditional bank comes both from global technology development and a tendency to organise things on a smaller scale.
Technology sees to it that you can shop online using your Google Wallet without having to relinquish your credit card details with every purchase. You have an online investment portfolio which dispenses with having to sit down with a man in a pinstripe suit.
We are masters of our money again. We can transfer and invest at will. New ways of financing are returning funds to citizens and companies. Crowd funding now accounts for two billion euros a year in investment in the UK, mostly in small to medium-sized businesses. Micro finance is everywhere. The term not only refers to micro credits, made famous by queen Máxima, but also to access to financial services.
In Kenya, half the country’s gnp is transferred via Vodafone and Safaricom’s M-Pesa. Website MYC4 is providing small businesses with finance possibilities previously unheard of. A financial system for all. Finance made to measure instead of risky, impersonal and far too complicated financial products. Google Wallets, Bitcoins and Crowdaboutnows, unite! That will see traditional banking off for good and all.
It’s going to be a hot financial summer, not because of the crisis but because of emerging new banks. Even Facebook might turn into one, with all the risks that entails. It, too, is too big to fail. History repeats itself. Upwards and onwards to Basel 4 which will be all about individual and innovative banking.
Farid Tabarki is a trendwatcher, public speaker, panel moderator and founder of Studio Zeitgeist in Amsterdam.
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