The Future of Money

Money, some have a lot and others, less. It became our driving force and dictates part of our society. It dominates our daily life, alleviates emotions, makes things possible. One may argue that there is no greater force that can ruin people’s lives by dividing families or friends, or at the same time, can become insignificant once a person found true happiness in life. When it comes to building technology for the finance industry (FinTech products) we must carefully consider how we do this. Money is a highly sensitive factor in our life we usually protect like nothing else. If we want to understand FinTech products we should look back into the past to the roots of money and then look into the future to better understand how to deal with (digital) money.

Once we remove the tangible object of money, we see that it is only a promise allowing us to store it into a common denominator only to convert it to tangible objects we want to consume. We started using gold and silver to exchange goods, then converted to paper and other metals and stopped at plastic cards, which store money virtually. This plastic card separated the value entirely from the material; there’s a tendency that we are losing the tangible form and with that loss, we get rid of the belief in its physical value, like we value the gold in a gold coin. From now on, we must believe in the reliability of the smartphone, computer and of course the Internet, which stores and displays our money. Money disappears and flocks, so to speak, anywhere in predefined structures.

As users we are losing the mastery of money to a certain degree because money as a virtual/digital good can only be exchanged under command. I call it a command because the user must constantly trust technology blindly. The user has no choice to determine the true value of the transaction because he or she doesn’t ‚see’ the money anymore. It doesn’t matter if someone uses PayPal, Visa or any other service to make a payment or manage accounts. BitCoin is such a utopia to establish money as a global universal. Emotions and the culture-specific forms in which money was carried around as a physical medium is no longer available. Hence, only the knowledge of the value as content is left over. A bank robber always knew the value of stolen goods when he touched those goods. There was an immediate relation to money through his senses. We can predict that the future of money will be one without using our senses in order to prove its value. What should we conclude from these thoughts on digital products in the world of finance?

Building FinTech products is to build the imagery of a special belief in technology managing your money. Such trust is to a higher degree very fragile and will chase users away once that trust is broken. We have to make sure that the user feels safe by using FinTech products. Let’s say it must create a majestic character in a user’s mind; the look and feel of the design must be seen as mature and serious which exudes safety and trust. The moment we’ve lost our nostalgia to physical money we must at least retain its appearance by good design. Without the belief in the value of money even traditional paper bills would be viewed without value. Only the likeness and the contextual images on the paper gives money its majestic and nostalgic touch; it’s something that’s only allowed to get printed by the government. Hence, we can advise that online platforms managing your money should also exude an imagery of safety. The loss of its physical form and nostalgia must be replaced by proper design.

Let’s play devil’s advocate. Even when a lot of economists call for a society of no physical money, is this something that should really happen one day? Such a question must be asked out of the field of the economy, nevertheless it supposes to be a utopia yet. One reason to keep physical money is due to myths and a good deal of romanticism. When we look at films, a lot of them would be very boring without a symbolic moment when physical money has been exchanged for an occasion. Paying somebody for a business transaction (may it be legal or illegal) has a strong symbolism, which a virtual transaction can never exude. In Norway we’re finding developments, which are strengthening the status quo of physical money. The country decided to create a newly designed paper bill that reflects their current generation’s state of mind and reflects on their value system. This can be seen as a sociological decision and pays respect to the emotional value of paper money. We may conclude that digital money or/and its platforms should be adjusted design-wise to the specific culture where it will be used. If the utopia of the global usage of BitCoins comes true we may see the rise of culture specific platforms including a unique design.

Let me highlight two principles we should keep in mind when we build FinTech Products:

#1 Trust and a re-establishment of the form by design should be the focus

#2 Create a strong commitment to a local culture by a unique design

Money is a strong part of our daily experience. Therefore a great user experience by good design is pivotal to attract and keep users. We don’t need to talk about safety, it’s the most implicit factor once you think of money. A clear and strong design must be the solution because it was always the key principle to make a sheet of paper valuable and a coin something special. It also helped to differentiate money from counterfeit money. On top of giving a digital product a specific value design also helps to let users understand how to uses these products in our daily life (if we build them). In the perfect case, it guides users intuitively while they use FinTechs product without even thinking about it. That must be the goal at the end of the day.

Thanks to Nora Egger for editing my English. Read more on our blog.