Why the Bank of Tomorrow will be Your Best Friend

Text by Kassandra Bucher

With the economy still calming from the massive storm of the financial crisis, it’s generally agreed that the banking system is due for a change.

Right now, the Silicon Valley is the heart of innovation in the financial services, and startups are some of the main players trying to come up with the perfect financial solution for the future.

Future of Money Study Tour

To connect and anticipate the shift, swissnex San Francisco led 12 representatives from eight Swiss banks and the editor-in-chief of the leading Swiss Business magazine Bilan on the first Future of Money Study Tour in late October—there was definitely something here to learn and possibly prepare for.

The aim over the course of the four-day program was to connect the group with the Silicon Valley’s game-changers in the financial industry.

Through visits, meetings, and workshops with the likes of PayPal, Apple, FutureAdvisor, Ripple Labs, IDEO, and many others, study tour participants met the innovators that matter and learned a key lesson driving industry change: customers want a new era of banking and transactions that are easy, comfortable, and increasingly digital.

Loss of trust and the way forward

Banks are still fighting back from the fall-out of the financial crisis. But the study tour discovered that companies in the Silicon Valley are using the distrust in big banks to their advantage, and turning banking on its head by putting the customer first.

“One of the biggest trends we see right now is the way we interact with payment methods, which allows many other players, such as Uber, Simple, or Shyp, to emerge in the financial sector,” says Joe Robinson, VP of Product at the digital currency company Circle.

Ambiance and atmosphere

Boring banks are getting a makeover in the name of customer experience, too.

Capital One Labs, a bank in San Francisco’s Financial District, welcomes their customers into a space with carpeted floors and stylish, communal long wooden tables. Friendly baristas serve coffee and brighten up the day with their infecting smiles. Sitting in cozy armchairs, you can sip a latte while waiting for your appointment or doing your banking on a mobile.

Here, banking is no longer about an institution telling you how you have to invest your money or reprimanding you when you forget to pay your bills. Instead, it is your friend, inviting you for a coffee, chatting about your problems, and lending you a hand.

“I discovered the technology is not the most important thing here in the Silicon Valley, it’s the customer experience,” notes study tour participant Patrice Crisinel, former Chief of Staff at NorInvest.

Paying the easy way

Not only does modern banking in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley have a completely new approach in style, but also in the very payment systems.

The study tour stopped by PayPal, a well-known company that is expanding from an online payment system to an innovative mobile app that promises to make payments easier in everyday life.

Walking through the company’s interactive model street, built at their headquarters in San Jose complete with brick and mortar restaurants, a grocery story, even a park and a living room, the group sees first-hand how PayPal is making good on its promise of customer-friendly commerce.

Instead of digging in your bag for your wallet, counting your coins for the right amount, or sorting through a stack of plastic for the right credit card, in PayPal’s utopia you simply grab your phone, log in, and pay for anything and everything with a click.

A change is gonna come

Capital One Labs, PayPal, and all the other startups and companies visited during the Future of Money Study Tour demonstrate how the financial industry is changing stateside, and what is possible in a traditional industry such as banking.

Don’t go burning your bills just yet, though.

“Money will always survive because, from an economic and political point of view, increasing or decreasing a country’s money supply and therefore regulating the interest rate to influence the economy is one of the government’s most important economic means,” clarifies Hugo Banziger, Partner at Lombard Odier and a study tour participant.

In other words, we still need money. Digital payments will become more and more important as they get easier and more convenient for users, but there will always be a place for cold hard cash, at least for now.

Get in touch with swissnex San Francisco’s startup and innovation team to learn more about this topic and how we can help you scout the future of your industry.