An exciting change is currently taking place across the world of finance – and it’s one that reaches far beyond big banks and the stock markets.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are still growing in value at an incredible rate. Because of this, more and more businesses across the globe are taking an interest in them, and therefore gradually integrating them into wider society.
And as people become more experienced in dealing with cryptocurrencies, their minds are opening towards the wider world of alternative finance.
Agile FinTech firms are taking the best advantage of the resulting opportunity, delivering apps and business models that are redefining traditional banking methods for the man or woman in the street. In this blog, we’ll look at four of the most creative and disruptive innovations out there, and the leading-edge technology powering them.
Shopping with Bitcoin made easy
While Bitcoin is an extremely interesting currency for experienced investors, its relevance to the public at large has so far been limited. This is simply because only a minority of shops and businesses accept Bitcoin as payment.
Getting every retailer to accept Bitcoin would be incredibly difficult to achieve in a single town, let alone an entire country. So the more practical solution is to enable individuals to convert Bitcoin into their preferred ‘hard’ currency easily, so that they can benefit from both the flexibility of Bitcoin and the usability of their established currency.
To make this possible, several FinTech companies have launched Visa or MasterCard debit cards that instantly convert Bitcoin into the required currency at the point of sale.
Taking the idea a step further, the Dragoncard, recently launched in the UK by the London Block Exchange, also allows users to withdraw Bitcoin funds as pounds sterling from ATMs (for a small fee).
There was one key barrier in the way of this innovation: Bitcoin transactions tend to take minutes to register on the blockchain, rather than seconds or milliseconds. But by taking on the conversion operation themselves, LBX have been able to give their users the same instant convenience of card transactions that they’d enjoy with a traditional sterling-based debit card.
Sparking a mass-market gold rush
Currency conversion cards and apps don’t just have to work for Bitcoin. In fact, they don’t even have to work for cryptocurrencies at all. As one London FinTech company has demonstrated, the same philosophy can just as easily be applied to the oldest, and arguably the most stable, currency of them all: gold.
Glint allows users to seamlessly move funds between sterling and gold whatever they want through an iOS app and, just like Dragoncard, make payments in shops with the accompanying debit card. The physical gold belonging to a user is held in a vault in Switzerland, and is basically bought and sold at the relevant exchange rate as users convert their currency in and out.
The potential of Glint is profound. For a start, it can make investing in gold accessible to a section of the public for whom it may have previously been out of reach. It also offers an alternative currency option to those who like the idea of moving away from established currency, but are wary of the unpredictability and lack of history of cryptocurrencies.
Turning the world into a trading floor
With the public being introduced to alternative finance through transaction-based tech like Dragoncard and Glint, many then go on to explore other possibilities that FinTech firms are providing, such as cryptocurrency investing.
Previously seen as the domain of ambitious young investors and IT experts, cryptocurrency trading is going mainstream thanks to platforms that are making it easier than ever for the public to get involved.
For example, TeleX AI is a project that will allow users to conduct all of their trading and investment activities through a chatbot that’s powered by artificial intelligence. TeleX AI can conduct deposits, withdrawals and trades, as well as providing up-to-date market information, through a series of simple commands.
Innovations such as this remove the need for users to possess any expert IT knowledge, deal with complex trading platforms or spend huge amounts of time managing their investments. This level of simplicity can only encourage even more people to engage in cryptocurrency trading in the future, therefore generating more money for tech creators and traders alike.
Clever retailers are setting crypto trends
As well as transactions and investments, this wider accessibility to new finance is reshaping shopping, too. This puts pressure on retailers, many of whom have been resistant to cryptocurrencies and the like, to cater for these new attitudes.
This means much more than simply starting to accept Bitcoin as payment: it means really embracing the possibilities to diversify, especially from a sales and marketing perspective. For example: if you’re a retailer and you don’t feel that the existing cryptocurrencies are suitable as payment for your products… why not create one of your own?
That’s exactly what Asian fashion conglomerate iFashion Group did with MegaX: a digital token that’s already attracted more than US$2million in ‘sales’. Armed with these tokens on a MegaX-specific smartphone app, holders will be able to buy items at special online and physical retail events where only MegaX is accepted.
With a fashion offering aimed at the increasingly wealthy group of millennials in Asia, it’s promoted as a trendy way of accessing the most sought-after clothes, using the portrayal of exclusivity to attract people into the brand.
The key takeaway
It’s clear from these examples that the FinTech firms developing these mass-market innovations are appealing to completely new markets with very different needs. What was previously suitable for a forward-thinking, tech-savvy customer base doesn’t necessarily work when trying to appeal to the public at large. But by taking new approaches to attract this mass-market audience, they’re exploiting enormous opportunities for business growth, armed with advanced tech like AI, Blockchain and the Cloud.
Every FinTech firm has the power to make game-changing platforms like these. But as typically smaller and newer companies, FinTechs need support and expertise from a providing organisation like you. And if you don’t have those technologies available yourself, that means joining forces with a partner that can equip you with whatever your FinTech clients need.
Drive innovation forward for your FinTech clients with leading-edge technology when you partner with IBM.