A Timeline of Every Major Disruption in Payments
The current payments landscape is moving at a blistering pace.
Mobile payments, for example, is a market growing at a 39.2% annual clip, and it will be worth nearly $3 trillion by 2020. At the same time, it’s almost impossible to keep up with the growth in the blockchain world. Every day, new technical problems are being solved, coin market caps are hitting new highs, and Bitcoin is dominating the news cycle.
But, payments hasn’t always been this fast-moving or exciting. In fact, right now is an anomalous moment in the sector – and we’re actually witnessing a rare intersection of multiple disruptive technologies coming to age at the same time.
A Timeline of Payment Disruptions
Today’s infographic comes from Glance Technologies, and it shows a historical timeline of the major disruptions that have occurred in payments, ranging from the Chinese invention of paper money to the birth of Paypal.
It keys in on the new wealth created by these incredible technological advancements – and it also highlights the origins behind many of the crucial pieces of today’s payments landscape.
It took roughly 1,100 years to go from paper money to plastic, 50 years to go from plastic to digital, and just 10 years to go from digital to mobile.
What fundamental change in payments is the next big one that will be visible across all levels of society?
The Next Big Shift
It may be too early to tell for sure what the next society-wide shift in payments will be, but there are definitely some obvious candidates.
Even with the precipitous rise of Bitcoin and its incredible journey to $10,000 and beyond, it’s still easy to underestimate the real possibilities in a decentralized, blockchain-based payments world. Various types of payments will be automated with smart contracts, and many of the world’s largest banks are already deep in experimentation with digital currencies.
In an ultra rosy scenario, it’s even imaginable to say that fiat currency may one day be obsolete. There are still many challenges to overcome, of course, but the blockchain could soon be ubiquitous in everyday payments at a societal level.
Just like the blockchain, the idea of going cashless already has growing adoption – however, it is not yet something that dominates all facets of payments on a societal level. Right now, in the United States, just 38% of people said they would be willing to go completely cash-free.
With the market for mobile payments increasing at a 39.2% CAGR, a fully cash-free world might not be that far off, though.
While the two above trends are the most obvious, there are some dark horses out there. For example, biometrics is one that could change how payments are verified, adding a new layer of security to transactions. Instead of using a smartphone, plastic, or cash, could you be paying for every purchase with a simple fingerprint soon?
Regardless of which of these is the next ubiquitous technology, the next five years of the payments space will certainly be exciting to watch.
De-Dollarization: Countries Seeking Alternatives to the U.S. Dollar
The U.S. dollar is the dominant currency in the global financial system, but some countries are following the trend of de-dollarization.
De-Dollarization: Countries Seeking Alternatives to U.S. Dollar
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The U.S. dollar has dominated global trade and capital flows over many decades.
However, many nations are looking for alternatives to the greenback to reduce their dependence on the United States.
This graphic catalogs the rise of the U.S. dollar as the dominant international reserve currency, and the recent efforts by various nations to de-dollarize and reduce their dependence on the U.S. financial system.
The Dollar Dominance
The United States became, almost overnight, the leading financial power after World War I. The country entered the war only in 1917 and emerged far stronger than its European counterparts.
As a result, the dollar began to displace the pound sterling as the international reserve currency and the U.S. also became a significant recipient of wartime gold inflows.
The dollar then gained a greater role in 1944, when 44 countries signed the Bretton Woods Agreement, creating a collective international currency exchange regime pegged to the U.S. dollar which was, in turn, pegged to the price of gold.
By the late 1960s, European and Japanese exports became more competitive with U.S. exports. There was a large supply of dollars around the world, making it difficult to back dollars with gold. President Nixon ceased the direct convertibility of U.S. dollars to gold in 1971. This ended both the gold standard and the limit on the amount of currency that could be printed.
Although it has remained the international reserve currency, the U.S. dollar has increasingly lost its purchasing power since then.
Russia and China’s Steps Towards De-Dollarization
Concerned about America’s dominance over the global financial system and the country’s ability to ‘weaponize’ it, other nations have been testing alternatives to reduce the dollar’s hegemony.
As the United States and other Western nations imposed economic sanctions against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow and the Chinese government have been teaming up to reduce reliance on the dollar and to establish cooperation between their financial systems.
Since the invasion in 2022, the ruble-yuan trade has increased eighty-fold. Russia and Iran are also working together to launch a cryptocurrency backed by gold, according to Russian news agency Vedmosti.
In addition, central banks (especially Russia’s and China’s) have bought gold at the fastest pace since 1967 as countries move to diversify their reserves away from the dollar.
How Other Countries are Reducing Dollar Dependence
De-dollarization it’s a theme in other parts of the world:
- In recent months, Brazil and Argentina have discussed the creation of a common currency for the two largest economies in South America.
- In a conference in Singapore in January, multiple former Southeast Asian officials spoke about de-dollarization efforts underway.
- The UAE and India are in talks to use rupees to trade non-oil commodities in a shift away from the dollar, according to Reuters.
- For the first time in 48 years, Saudi Arabia said that the oil-rich nation is open to trading in currencies besides the U.S. dollar.
Despite these movements, few expect to see the end of the dollar’s global sovereign status anytime soon. Currently, central banks still hold about 60% of their foreign exchange reserves in dollars.
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