This is a good question under most circumstances and it should be a serious consideration for business owners right now. Why?
Assuming your clients are actually settling their accounts, you might need to accept payments in a form other than cash, EFT or debit cards very soon.
90% of trade will be conducted via cell phone in the next few years and most businesses have no idea how to receive funds from their future clients.
This article is all about digital trade trends that are pertinent to businesses of all sizes to adapt from old school banking to the inevitable future of digital trade, e-banking and currencies.
“Banking” within the next 15 years.
Banking will not be cash-driven. It will be a buffet of Mobile and Internet Banking, Peer to Peer Payments, Direct Banking, Banking on Apps and Social Media followed by a dessert of Artificial Intelligence, Chat Bots, Blockchain, Cognitive Computing, Big Data and even some Voice Biometrics.
But, before you panic, let me point out that the ultimate results of these changes will all be good. It will be:
However, before we can enjoy these benefits we need to weather a growth spurt which some business won’t survive. I am not saying this to scare you, but rather just to clarify that fact.
These types of companies are ruffling the feathers of the financial sector, and therefore the economic structure we have been using for decades.
There are hundreds of these new companies opening up every month and it is important to keep an eye on these changes and to give digital money trends the attention it deserves. However, not everyone is. For example, recently Clem Sunter sent an e-mail to me. It had two attachments which were copies of articles, and a nice cover page reminding me that South Africa was not a bad place to live and to not be depressed. I responded to his email and asked: “… why do you not have a flag for the influence of technology.” My question had a specific interest in digital trade trends which I believe are going to be the greatest influence on global economies.
The majority of us ignore this trend because at their current status they are not a replacement of old solutions yet. The average person still needs cash, debit cards and EFTs to live day to day or run their business.
Trust me, the day we can replace cash is fast approaching and that scares some people.
There is a hidden war between the forces of control, freedom and choice, happening right now behind the closed doors of governments, influential people and big business.
These influential forces are hindering the use of innovation because it does not serve their interests. Why would central banks want to give up the power that comes with the ability to create actual money? Nearly all central banks have a sole mandate to print money.
I do not believe ‘they’ will win this war, and in many cases, they have already lost and are delaying the announcement of defeat. Evidence to support my opinion here comes from signs around the world, for example, China’s Alipay (https://intl.alipay.com/) or WeChat (https://web.wechat.com/) which have over a billion users of frequent mobile payments between them.
The digital money economy is a reality right now. For a business owner to deny this fact would be as irrational as someone refusing to buy a cell phone because they already have a landline.
Disruptive digital money and digital trade trends are not operating in a vacuum and we must be mindful of other influences like the ever-growing number of elderly people, urbanization, and that our society is now a consumer that does not accept 9-5 trading hours. We demand consumption on a 24/7 basis.
In most cases, the reality is that the idea of having to leave our home is not an acceptable condition of purchase anymore.
Important to know.
Online trade platforms will dominate just about every industry within the next two decades. Many banks and franchises of all sorts are closing their larger shops and moving online. It is a fact that around half of all the bank branches worldwide have closed their doors and online banking has grown its consumer base from 10% to nearly 80% worldwide since the ‘90s.
This era is what we call Banking 4.0: real-time and it is not dependent on people and sometimes not even banks.
Changes like PSD2, or Revised Payment Service Directive, is a banking industry directive that is a game-changer in the retail space and will, once completely rolled out, remove the bank’s monopoly on customer account information and payment services, allowing third-parties to create client services that link with client accounts.
This sort of Fin and Tech Company cross services merger is one of the many avenues of opportunity for entrepreneurs, but right now it creates a grey area between banks and retail stores who could if they wanted to offer each other’s services, do so easily.
It is not a lose-lose situation for banks. For banks that embrace this change, they will survive and benefit from avoiding the ever-increasing labour costs and be able to reduce operational structures.
Banks must remember that they have a dwindling opportunity to use their advantage (consumer base, trust data) to customise their service offerings and retain their clients.
Digital banking can help banks trace fraud and be used to reduce other risks or even crime.
The banks of today with their large city offices will survive if they respond to customer needs right now, pursue the creation of new revenue streams and work on optimization of costs… which means letting go of those large offices and getting rid of paper!
The force with the greatest variety of uses in this digital evolution is blockchain technology and it is not limited to banking. Alternative uses can be seen rolling out right now, for example, some of the United Arab Emirates have established government departments committed to having citizens' documentation on blockchain by the end of 2020.
Blockchain has so many far-reaching and easy to implement solutions for businesses of all sizes and I encourage business owners to investigate it in their sector. The early bird here will get all the worms.
To know where we are going, we first look at where we are coming from.
Many people are not aware of how much change has already happened, for example, there is something called RPA which stands for Robotic Process Automation and this helps banks accelerate their growth by executing pre-programmed rules across their data ranges.
RPA has also helped with the simplification of compliance procedures because they can generate detailed logs of automated processes, and the results are reports for auditors without human error.
Like many of these Tech Trends, we don’t need to understand how RPA works, just that banks are developing and using tech in such a way that they can define themselves as a Techfirm.
For the most part, these sorts of new tech solutions are not mainstream and their implementation is scattered around the banking industry which, generally speaking, has outdated business models, and management reluctant to let go.
Fintech companies are taking advantage of this opportunity and replicating bank services in a more efficient manner. Research from https://www.accenture.com/ says the UK has the most disrupted banking sector with 15% of their revenue diverted to new entrants.
Let’s just look at the difference between a Fintech and a Techfin company: Techfin firms start with technology and move into commerce, for example, Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Google, Amazon and Facebook. Fintech firms start with commerce and then move into technology, which is what most major banks are going to do.
Tech companies can take over a market share of any industry sector that does not keep up with trends.
A few international Techfin examples:
African and out of the box Techfin examples:
The potential in South Africa for digital money and trade to succeed sooner than some 1st world countries is much higher because we don’t have to deal with old legacy policies and infrastructure.
We do have a few local issues to deal with, for example, a large portion of our population still save in cooperative savings institutions called “stokvels.” Setting this point aside, we have all the good ingredients of a great banking sector which resembles the United Kingdom more than the USA.
A simple bullet point summary of our well-regulated and structured banking sector would look like this:
There are other local and international institutions involved, and all working together they offer South Africans an all-inclusive range of services via a structure that even coped well with the recent global financial crisis.
It is also nice to know that the SA banking sector is adequately capitalized.
Not ‘based’ in South Africa, but relevant is the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). It ‘manages’ Digital Fiat Currency / digital base money. This is not the same as digital currency (virtual currency and cryptocurrency).
Fiat money is a government-issued currency that is not backed by a physical commodity like gold. The value is derived from the relationship between supply and demand and the stability of the issuing government.
CBDC is a digital form of fiat money which is established as real money by government regulations and the law. It is a high security digital tool, like actual bank notes, it is a means of actual payment and has a store value.
Fiat Currency vs cryptocurrency can be distinguished as this: Fiat is “legal tender” and cryptocurrencies are not.
A good website to learn more can be found at: https://www.centralbanking.com
There are countless effects, both good and bad.
Internationally, people have been imprisoned for their involvement with some types of digital trade. People have lost their savings. Locally, several larger banks are closing hundreds of their branches and at the same time smaller banks are reporting growth in the unbanked and entry-level segment.
Change always will breed fear, and one of the main fears for digital trade or money is that it leaves our hard earned funds at more risk.
Let me set the record straight once and for all.
I do not believe we will be at more risk because of these changes.
People tend to quickly forget that banks can go bankrupt. Yes, the Reserve Bank provides liquidity to banks, but there are conditions.
People and business can still lose money in the old school banking system structure.
We are more comfortable with the devil we know than the devil we don’t.
This brings me to the important point of financial literacy, which unfortunately is something Africans in general are lacking.
Technology gives us access, tools, and most importantly knowledge.
I fear that if mechanisms are not put in place quickly to rollout digital trade and also educate our people, we might be left behind and through this process become even more segregated from one another and the rest of the world. I hope that if my readers remember only one paragraph of this article it will be this one. You must help yourself and learn as much as you can about this trend, empower yourself and improve your own chances of economic freedom in the Future World. Everyone is starting off anew, and we will have only ourselves to blame if we don’t take action now.
To help, let me share what the structures of digital money are. There are a few characteristics, but defining digital currency can really only be generalised as a term to describe all electronic money, including both virtual and cryptocurrency.
Let me unpack some of these types and for ease of references categorise them into three sections, but also add a disclaimer that there are many hybrids out there as well.
Digital currencies and services are centralized, like the types of services we get with our traditional banks, such as EFTs, 3rd party money transfer and companies like Western Union. (https://www.westernunion.com/za/en/home.html)
This type of digital money/trade requires user identification in most cases, such as ID.
Digital currencies are not as transparent as we might want them to be. You cannot choose the address of the ‘wallet’ or E-account, or review all the money transfers. Human error and risk are much greater in this category.
Digital currencies are subject to transaction manipulation and the managing authority can, if they wanted to, or were mandated to, intervene and take actions such as freezing funds. On the other side of the same coin, there is some recourse available in this category, for example, you might be able to reverse a transaction depending on the managing authority rules.
These systems are more vulnerable to hacks and major data breaches as information is stored in a ‘single location’ or ‘silo system’.
I wanted to feature an example of an alternative to a bank in this article and in many ways the example I want to share fits in nicely within this category.
Chips.co.za is the perfect example, and I paid them a visit in person to prepare for this article at their offices in Centurion.
I stumbled across this company by picking up on a lead over coffee with a friend and my interest first sparked because of the founder, a man called Dr. Philip Tromp. This individual really impressed me and without even meeting him has become a role model. He was responsible for the first real-time payment system between South African banks (SAMOS). He received a 'Chief Information Officer of the Decade' award from the Computer Society of South Africa (CSSA) and Computerweek Strategist. His references carry on and on. I hope to get to meet him one day but he was unfortunately overseas at the time. I was fortunate enough to meet with two other very important people from Chips.co.za.
I first met with Ivan, who has the strongest hand shake I have ever experienced in my life, and then Deon (the CEO). I love companies made up of such innovative and skilled individuals. Information on their team and their solution can be found on their well put together website, which is set up in such a way that it is very easy to understand their product: https://chips.co.za
Here’s a summary:
There are several other services offered and I encourage you to pay their website a visit (https://chips.co.za).
This type of service provider is the exact type of money management app or company we need to test out as an alternative to traditional banks and it can be used for both private and business.
Onto the second category:
Cryptocurrencies and related services are decentralized and cared for by a very large network of independent computers and their owners. This is the category receiving the most craze from the public.
When using this type of currency the transaction might not be 100% anonymous, but for the most part it hides a lot of personal information like your name, residential address and contact number.
Crypto transactions are transparent to anyone who reviews the blockchain or public ledger.
Trade on these platforms is not managed by people but by the rules of the code and due to this, intervention by a human is nearly impossible. You cannot reverse a transaction at all, once concluded.
The reason we don’t fully embrace this category is because it is so hard to use it for our day to day needs.
Funds can only be owned and spent using electronic wallets or designated network suppliers, vendors and exchanges and it takes time for the funds to clear.
The technical side also scares people off, and people tend to panic about encryption algorithms, cryptographic techniques and blockchain.
The idea of forgetting or misplacing our private key which gives us access to funds scares people off because there is absolutely no way to recover our money once it is lost.
The other risk is price volatility because the value is determined solely on supply and demand.
There are literally thousands of cryptocurrencies in existence, with an aggregate market value of over $120 billion and Bitcoin represents more than 50% of the total value. I am not going to talk about all the types, nor waffle on about Bitcoin. Instead I have prepared a separate short article on the most important cryptocurrencies available with a link to their websites and a quick note on each one. You can read here: The Major Cryptocurrencies
If you do try one of the options, and I encourage you to, please do your own research on which one to use. Bitcoin, IOTA or Ethereum would be my recommendation, unless you are an artist, then use Tron.
Regardless of which one you try, make sure you do not spend or invest more money than you are prepared to lose.
You will need to know what a cryptocurrency wallet is when you get started. This is basically software or hardware that gives you the ability to save and trade with your cryptocurrency.
Hardware versions have advantages such as being immune to viruses and can host multiple cryptocurrencies. Both types are encrypted and from these platforms you can send funds to a recipient, and only they can decrypt your transfer and conclude the transaction.
You will also want to know what a cryptocurrency exchange is and they are generally a company that trades one cryptocurrency for another.
They also offer the service to buy and sell crypto coins, or exchange of fiat money into crypto. Crypto exchanges set the rate of the currencies. They work similarly to regular stock exchanges.
Africa loves Crypto transactions, so don’t be worried that you are part of the first wave of users. LocalBitcoins.com in Kenya is trading in excess of $1.8 million and there are millions of people in Africa trying these currencies with exchanges popping up all over. For example, the South Africa based Luno Exchange which started in 2013 and has 1.5 million clients in over 40 countries. Another is iceCUBED (https://ice3x.co.za/).
During your own research you might find other service providers like cryptocurrency-based remittance services: BitMari (https://bitmari.com/) in Zimbabwe. Or Abra (https://www.abra.com/) in Malawi. In South Africa you can find GeoPay (https://geopay.co.za/).
Onto the final category:
Virtual Currencies are a general term we all know, and refers to a type of digital currency that is controlled by the creator and only used by a closed group of members in a virtual community.
All virtual currencies are digital (they only exist online, for example pretend money you use on a game), but not all digital currencies are virtual.
In the same category, but one of two spin-offs is Closed Virtual Currency. This is an unregulated digital currency used for payments within a select virtual community. It has no connection to the real economy and cannot be converted to legal tender.
The second spin-off is Convertible Virtual Currency and this is an unregulated digital currency that can be used as a substitute for real legal currency. It usually has a measurable value in local currency, but relies on the ability of local exchanges.
The above categories are the trends, but we must not forget electronic trade all started with the grandfather of E-money, which at its roots was preloaded funds onto store cards or vouchers, such as gift and loyalty cards, digitally ‘recorded’ to a stored-value card or remotely on a server. We have used these solutions for some time at point-of-sale terminals or even between two devices (P2P). Most recently they have evolved into open computer networks which also have vouchers of sorts: such as Google Wallet, Apple Pay and also so-called smart cards issued by companies like Mondex and Visa Cash.
Predications and Law.
To conclude this important article, let me offer predictions and law around these trends. There are so many predictions I can make, but I have only listed a few. In no particular order:
This moves me nicely onto the subject of the law around e-money…
Most countries have some legal framework for digital currencies for example, article 4A of the Uniform Commercial Code in the USA, or the Directive 2009/110/EC in the European Union.
The law for cryptocurrencies in general lags behind the law for digital currencies which have a different definition and are treated differently by courts. World-wide, and for simplicity, you could group all these types together and then list four categories of status for law:
Most of Africa fits in with category three.
The legal landscape for cryptocurrency in South Africa is largely unregulated but it is evolving. The South African Reserve Bank issued a whitepaper in 2014 outlining its stance on Virtual Currencies (CVs) and Decentralized Convertible Virtual Currencies.
The Financial Markets Act 2012 excludes virtual currencies (and this could include cryptocurrencies) from the definition of securities meaning they do not fall under the regulatory standards for trading.
In January 2019 the SA Reserve Bank released a consultation paper on crypto assets for public comment, which you can see here: https://www.resbank.co.za/Lists/News%20and%20Publications/Attachments/9037/CAR%20WG%20Consultation%20paper%20on%20crypto%20assets_final.pdf
Cryptocurrencies are not recognised as legal tender in South Africa and a merchant or a beneficiary can refuse payment by this method. This is of course the main problem with crypto: you can’t spend it on day to day things. Until this problem is resolved the use of cryptocurrencies will lag behind digital currencies.
For Tax, the process will depend on if you are working with a crypto or digital currency, but be aware there are laws in South Africa which either confirm you must declare a transaction or laws which could be interpreted in such a way by SARS that you should have. I advise to declare all digital trade and assets and work with accountant on how best to do so. I also suggest you add digital assets to your Last Will and Testament.
Digital currencies will dominate as soon as a few good suppliers have built trust with consumers and vendors, and this will lead to a snowball effect. If you are already using e-money in business, I would love to hear from you.
For the rest of my Followers with their own business, I encourage everyone try out at least one type of cryptocurrency and one type of alternative digital banking option sooner rather than later. Investigate which avenue your client is most likely to use and lay the foundation in your business to receive and make payments. If you would like assistance on how to implement digital money into your business structures I would be a good person to deal with.
Digital Architect & Scenario Planner.
Everything Trends, Tech, Web, Iot & Strategy.
Author, Consultant & Project Manager.
Jean-Pierre Murray-Kline is a Digital Architect & Scenario Planner. He is an expert in Innovation, Technology Trends, IoT, Disruptive Technology, Sustainable Green Solutions, Future Proofing, Cyber Security, Web & Social Media marketing and services, as well as Virtual & Augmented reality services. He is a South African Entrepreneur, published Author and Keynote Speaker. Jean-Pierre has made millions off the Internet for his own company and his clients. Read about his services and more about him using the website https://www.jeanpierremurraykline.co.za/
Published September 2019Read more articles