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.
The Beginning of a Bitcoin Bull Run?
After 15 months of losses and stagnation, Bitcoin has made a miraculous recovery — going on a 150% bull run since its lows in December 2018.
The Beginning of a Bitcoin Bull Run?
After 15 months of losses and stagnation, Bitcoin has made a miraculous recovery — rising more than 150% from its lowest point in December 2018.
In its heyday, Bitcoin had surpassed $10,000 in early December 2017, before briefly crossing the $20,000 mark for a single day on December 17th. A year later, the digital currency had fallen back to Earth, dropping below $3,200.
Now that the dust of that wild speculative frenzy has settled, Bitcoin is back on the upswing. What could be causing this most recent surge in growth?
We look at four possible explanations for the Bitcoin bull run, as originally outlined by Aaron Hankin at MarketWatch:
Bitcoin has seen several technical milestones this year, such as surpassing the psychological barrier of $5,000 in early 2019, breaking the 200-day moving average, and scoring the golden cross (when the 50-day moving average crosses above the 200-day moving average).
Bitcoin is experiencing a steady increase in adoption across several markets. The term Bitcoin has become a household name — even if people don’t understand what it does, they know what it is.
Companies such as Starbucks, Microsoft, and Amazon, and Nordstrom are looking for ways to integrate cryptocurrencies into daily transactions for faster payment clearance, innovative rewards programs, and efficient customer service interactions.
Bitcoin has possibly seen a shift in public perception. There have been fewer negative articles about Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, and the news stories that are negative no longer have as big of an impact as they once did.
When Binance announced hackers stole $40 million in bitcoin and when accusations of an $850-million cover-up were leveled against Bitfinex and Tether, the Bitcoin bull run barely flinched and continued to climb.
Wavering Gold Investment
Investor confidence in gold has been more stagnant in recent times. To capitalize on this, Grayscale Investments (of Digital Currency Group) posted a campaign in May 2019 promoting Bitcoin as an ideal alternative to gold because it is borderless, secure, and more efficient for storing value.
Despite the World Gold Council’s response denying those claims, the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust saw OTC Markets Group’s highest trading volumes five days later.
Where to from here?
After a long skid, it appears Bitcoin is showing signs of life again. Bitcoin’s price can be highly volatile, so it remains to be seen whether this is the beginning of a bull run, or whether this is just another bump in the roller coaster ride.
Editor’s note: The price of Bitcoin has fallen to $7,100 at time of publishing and will likely continue to experience extreme volatility. However, even at a price of $7,100, this is still a 120% increase from lows in Dec 2018. As well, an earlier version of this graphic had incorrect dates on the timeline. That has now been corrected.
The 7 Major Flaws of the Global Financial System
Since the invention of banking, the global financial system has increasingly become more centralized. Here are the big flaws it has, as a result.
The 7 Major Flaws of the Global Financial System
Since the invention of banking, the global financial system has become increasingly centralized.
In the modern system, central banks now control everything from interest rates to the issuance of currency, while government regulators, corporations, and intergovernmental organizations wield unparalleled influence at the top of this crucial food chain.
There is no doubt that this centralization has led to the creation of massive amounts of wealth, especially to those properly connected to the financial system. However, the same centralization has also arguably contributed to many global challenges and risks we face today.
Flaws of the Global Financial System
Today’s infographic comes to us from investment app Abra, and it highlights the seven major flaws of the global financial system, ranging from the lack of basic access to financial services to growing inequality.
1. Billions of people globally remain unbanked
To participate in the global financial sector, whether it is to make a digital payment or manage one’s wealth, one must have access to a bank account. However, 1.7 billion adults worldwide remain unbanked, having zero access to an account with a financial institution or a mobile money provider.
2. Global financial literacy remains low
For people to successfully use financial services and markets, they must have some degree of financial literacy. According to a recent global survey, just 1-in-3 people show an understanding of basic financial concepts, with most of these people living in high income economies.
Without an understanding of key concepts in finance, it makes it difficult for the majority of the population to make the right decisions – and to build wealth.
3. High intermediary costs and slow transactions
Once a person has access to financial services, sending and storing money should be inexpensive and fast.
However, just the opposite is true. Around the globe, the average cost of a remittance is 7.01% in fees per transaction – and when using banks, that rises to 10.53%. Even worse, these transactions can take days at a time, which seems quite unnecessary in today’s digital era.
4. Low trust in financial institutions and governments
The financial sector is the least trusted business sector globally, with only a 57% level of trust according to Edelman. Meanwhile, trust in governments is even lower, with only 40% trusting the U.S. government, and the global country average sitting at 47%.
5. Rising global inequality
In a centralized system, financial markets tend to be dominated by those who are best connected to them.
These are people who have:
- Access to many financial opportunities and asset classes
- Capital to deploy
- Informational advantages
- Access to financial expertise
In fact, according to recent data on global wealth concentration, the top 1% own 47% of all household wealth, while the top 10% hold roughly 85%.
On the other end of the spectrum, the vast majority of people have little to no financial assets to even start building wealth. Not only are many people living paycheck to paycheck – but they also don’t have access to assets that can create wealth, like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or ETFs.
6. Currency manipulation and censorship
In a centralized system, countries have the power to manipulate and devalue fiat currencies, and this can have a devastating effect on markets and the lives of citizens.
In Venezuela, for example, the government has continually devalued its currency, creating runaway hyperinflation as a result. The last major currency manipulation in 2018 increased the price of a cup of coffee by over 772,400% in six months.
Further, centralized power also gives governments and financial institutions the ability to financially censor citizens, by taking actions such as freezing accounts, denying access to payment systems, removing funds from accounts, and denying the retrieval of funds during bank runs.
7. The build-up of systemic risk
Finally, centralization creates one final and important drawback.
With financial power concentrated with just a select few institutions, such as central banks and “too big too fail” companies, it means that one abject failure can decimate an entire system.
This happened in 2008 as U.S. subprime mortgages turned out to be an Achilles Heel for bank balance sheets, creating a ripple effect throughout the globe. Centralization means all eggs in one basket – and if that basket breaks it can possibly lead to the destruction of wealth on a large scale.
The Future of the Global Financial System?
The risks and drawbacks of centralization to the global financial system are well known, however there has never been much of a real alternative – until now.
With the proliferation of mobile phones and internet access, as well as the development of decentralization technologies like the blockchain, it may be possible to build an entirely new financial system.
But is the world ready?
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