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14th January 2020

Imagining the world of finance in 2034

A short story by Jan Langlo, director of the Association of Swiss Private Banks, set in 2034, imagining the future of finance.

On the 2nd of July 2034, the sun was shining brightly and John woke up full of optimism. Like every day, he put on his augmented-reality glasses and activated his PDA (personal digital assistant) by saying "Good morning Cheryl!". The PDA's reply was broadcast throughout the loudspeakers in every room of his flat, as well as in his glasses.

Since the mega fraud in 2028, when the accounts of 500 million people had been debited of a thousand Stablecoins by activating their PDAs that all bore the same name, it had been decided that the activation name should be left to each user’s discretion.

"Cheryl, do I have any outstanding debt?" "Yes," Cheryl replied, "you owe Kevin 28 libra for last night’s dinner and 50 wecoin to the Korean artist you commissioned to create a 3D print model of your favourite manga character." "Cheryl, show me my libra and wecoin balances."

John focused on the figures that were appearing on the translucid panel of his glasses. He would need to change some local Stablecoins, the common virtual currency that most central banks had adopted, into the two main currencies used in the Cloud: the libra for the Occidental part of the world and the wecoin for the Asian one.

"Cheryl, change 200 Stablecoins in libra and 300 Stablecoins in wecoin on my main account." "Consider it done, John," Cheryl replied.

Powerful algorithms compiling the worldwide bids and offers for these currencies ensured a spot transaction – not that their exchange rates varied that much now. It was also instantaneous and free, as easy as switching a green sock for a red one. Revolut had been just the beginning!

"Cheryl, settle my debts, please." "Consider it done, John."

John knew that Kevin could immediately see that he had paid him. He thought about the days when a transfer through a bank would take up to two days to be effective and wondered how people had managed. He went to the fridge whose screen displayed the optimal breakfast options, based on the sleep data transmitted by his fit-band. While eating, he unfolded his flexible tablet and read his favourite newspaper. An advertisement for the wealth manager that Kevin had mentioned yesterday caught his eye. Apparently, they had developed some ground-breaking AI that managed to beat the indexes. John decided to test them with some of his savings.

"Cheryl, send an account opening request to that bank in the paper, in my name." "Consider it done, John."

Not for the first time, John thought it would have been nice to programme in a few variations of that sentence, but perhaps that was asking too much of a PDA.

John knew that as with his earlier financial transactions, Cheryl was not just obeying his voice but also checking several biological signs (eyes, breathing, pulse) to verify that it was truly he giving the order. This time, the data sent to the bank also included a link to the central KYC register of his country. This would allow the bank to verify not only his identity but also his track record.

By the time he was done with breakfast, he received a notification on his glasses that his new account had been opened. John then decided to check whether he could obtain some credits from the crowd at a better rate than the expected return of his new account.

"Cheryl, what are my options for getting a credit of 10 000 Stablecoins?" "You can get a one-year renewable loan from your main bank at a rate of 3.51% or" Cheryl paused while scanning all the possible options, "someone would give you a rate of 2.79% on Lendboox."

John thought it over and decided against reducing his yield by so much. After all, AI algorithms had made considerable progress in the twenties but were now more or less all the same. It was mostly because he trusted Kevin’s judgement that John was willing to try a new one.

"Cheryl, please send 10 000 Stablecoins to the account I just opened and ask the bank to invest them according to my ESG preferences." "Consider it done, John."

Just a few seconds later, his glasses displayed a short film presenting the companies that his new portfolio was invested in, explaining how they contributed to preserving the earth and its inhabitants. Since the data of all his purchases was shared across all platforms (except those that he had refused to share), his centres of interest helped define what was most important to him and the wealth managers could combine these elements with their own analyses.

"Cheryl, tell me how much I have available for leisure this month." "According to your budget, you can spend 1863 Stablecoins on your free time in July."

The good thing was that his holidays were already booked and paid so that John could afford a few extras on the beach. This got him thinking about his retirement and he opened the Numbrs app on his tablet. The application showed him the results of his pension account for the first semester and what his pension would be if he kept his current income. He could play with a number of options to run the scenarios he wished. He could even select a new investment strategy for his pension fund but felt no need to change it.

"Cheryl, remind me if I have already sent my income tax return this year." "Yes John, you sent it on April 5th."

Filling out one’s tax return was so easy now. John had only to scan his bank reports and send them to the tax authorities; and he had better not forget any, since a global account register, accessible only to tax authorities, ensured compliance. Now that distributed ledgers were finally safe (only a few breaches had occurred within the last five years on the official ones) and needed much less energy to run, everyone felt confident enough to have their personal data stored on one.

But enough of all these money-related thoughts, it was time to go play tennis with some friends! Still, some of the news John had read during breakfast worried him. He had some concerns about the state of the world’s economy and no AI could replace an exchange of ideas with a real human. So he asked Cheryl to remind him to call his personal banker tomorrow – after all, Sundays were still non-work days!

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Imagining the world of finance in 2034