Essay: The Future of Money

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How social and mobile technologies are changing the way people earn, manage and spend money

What is the Future of Money?

Social and mobile networks, and the rich data streams that emerge out of them, are fundamentally changing the way people 1) create, store and access value 2) accumulate, measure and exchange currencies and 3) earn, manage and spend money.


Source: opensourceway on Flickr

First, these technologies are helping us create, store and access value in new ways. We are creating value by sharing content (WordPress), photos (Flickr) and videos (YouTube)) online for free to express ourselves; collaborating with likeminded others to co-create open source content (Wikipedia), software (Linux) and hardware (Arduino); and participating in open innovation communities to co-create solutions for a better world (OpenIDEO). We are thus storing value in the commons, using the Creative Commons License for artistic works like content and the GNU General Public License for practical works like software, to enable others to reuse, remix and reshare our creations. As a result, not only participants in such peer-to-peer networks, but also everyone else in the world, can access and benefit from free content, media, software and hardware created through the gift economy[1]. For more, see Tim O’Reilly outline an approach to calculate the economic value created by open source communities.

Tim O’Reilly on the Economic Value of Open Source

Second, these technologies are helping us accumulate, measure and exchange new types of currencies in new ways. We are participating in ecosystems that recognize and value social currency, not only financial currency. We are accumulating whuffie[2] and karma through our actions in social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), content sharing networks (WordPress, Flickr, YouTube) and peer-to-peer networks (eBay, TripAdvisor, Stack Overflow). We are measuring our social currency or social capital through services like Klout, Kred, PeedIndex and TrustCloud. We are then using our social currency to build trust and influence, improve our experience in peer-to-peer marketplaces, and even save time and money. For more, see Rachel Botsman argue that the currency for the new economy is trust.

Rachel Botsman on Trust as Currency

Third, these technologies are helping us earn, manage and spend money in new ways. We are earning and saving money by selling or bartering our things (eBay), spaces (Airbnb) and time (TaskRabbit) on peer-to-peer marketplaces. We are gifting, lending and investing money with our peers on crowdfunding (Kickstarter, Indiegogo), peer-to-peer microlending (Kiva, Prosper) and social investing (eToro, Zulu Trade) communities. We are managing our money by setting goals and comparing our spending against similar others (Mint, Payoff), and using mobile wallets (Lemon Wallets, Isis Wallet) to replace paper money and plastic cards. Finally, we are not only moving our spending to peer-to-peer transactions, but also using new payment methods like virtual currencies (BitCoin, Dwolla), online payments (PayPal, Visa, mobile payments (PayPal Here, Intuit GoPayement, Square) and social payments (Pay with a Tweet, Flattr). For more, see Sapient Nitro explore the future of payments.

Sapient Nitro on the Future of Payments

In this report, we will focus on how social and mobile technologies are shaping the future of money. We will explore how such technologies are enabling new ways of earning, saving, managing, gifting, lending, investing, and spending money, now and in the future.

Specifically, we will explore the following models:

1)    sharing economy and peer-to-peer marketplaces

2)    crowdfunding, microlending, crowd investing and social investing communities

3)    online, mobile, social and virtual payment ecosystems

4)    money management applications and mobile wallets

We will also explore how traditional banks and financial services firms are exploring such models to compete with new players, and engaging their customers in grassroots change movements and collaborative social innovation initiatives.

The rise of these platforms and apps can be attributed to three broad trends. First, the continued recession has made people sharpen their focus on maximizing the value of their money and assets, prompting them to find new ways to earn, manage and save money. Second, the widespread adoption of online social networks has inspired entrepreneurs to explore the power of their networks, resulting in an explosion of new peer to peer platforms. Third, the wealth of financial data available through financial institutions’ APIs has made it possible for entrepreneurs to aggregate data from multiple sources, analyze it and present it back to people with valuable insights about their own behavior.

1) Sharing Economy and Peer-to-Peer Marketplaces

People are earning and saving money by selling or bartering things, spaces and time on peer-to-peer marketplaces.

The sharing economy is an important groundswell that is changing the very nature of ownership and consumption. We are prioritizing access over ownership, and choosing sharing, renting, swapping, bartering and gifting over buying. We are sharing products, services and spaces with others in our communities, or around the world, using community-driven peer-to-peer marketplaces. In doing so, we are saving money by borrowing or renting from peers and earning money by renting out our unused assets.

Peer-to-peer marketplaces are particularly disruptive because they use technology to directly connect people and eliminate the need for service organizations like hotels, universities and banks. The platforms invest in creating a community and build trust between users through social connections, verified profiles, peer reviews and offline meetups, and typically make a margin on the transactions between users.

Some of the most popular categories for peer-to-peer marketplaces are mobility (BlaBlaCar (video), RelayRides (video), Spinlister, Sidecar (video), Lyft (video), Zimride (video)), spaces (Airbnb (video), Wimdu (video), DeskWanted (video), Landshare (video), ParkatmyHouse (video), ParkingPanda (video)) and services (TaskRabbit (video), DogVacay (video), Rover (video), Skillshare (video), WeTeachMe (video), italki (video)). In addition, several multi-purpose collaborative consumption platforms enable people to sell (eBay, Craigslist, Zaarly (video)) or rent (Zilok, Rentoid (video), Uniiverse (video)) all types of products, services and experiences. As peer-to-peer marketplaces become more widespread, services that map our online reputation and trust will become more important (Klout, Kred, PeedIndex, TrustCloud, (video), Credport, Fidbacks, Virtrue, MiiCard (video), Lenddo (video)).

Some of these peer-to-peer marketplaces have achieved significant scale and success. For instance, Airbnb has 4 million people who have shared 300,000 listings in 40,000 cities and rented 10 million nights.

How to Airbnb?

We believe that the growth of the sharing economy will fundamentally change our relationship with money and ownership. We expect product organizations (like auto companies) to redesign their business models from selling products to renting services and create peer-to-peer marketplaces for second-hand products and add-on services (like parking spaces). We also expect service organizations (like banks and universities) to create peer-to-peer marketplaces for services they cannot provide profitably (like microloans (see Kiva Zip & Prosper) and hobby workshops (see Skillshare & Craftsy)). Finally, we expect banks to design trust-rating services that aggregate users’ trust scores across peer-to-peer marketplaces and establish trust as a currency that is both universal and context-specific (see TrustCloud & Lenddo).

What is Lenddo?

For instance, GM has partnered with car-sharing service RelayRides (video) and BMW i has invested in parking-sharing service Park at My House (video)). Nike with NIKEiD (video) and Converse with Design Your Own have created platforms to enable customers to customize and sell their products, while Vancl with Star and Magazine Voce (video) have created platforms to enable customers to create their own storefronts and sell products to their own networks. Finally, Patagonia and eBay partnered to create the Common Threads Initiative (video), which uses to the eBay platform to enable people to resell used apparel to others.

Patagonia + eBay Green – Common Threads Initiative

2) Crowdfunding, Microlending, Crowd investing and Social Investing Communities

People are gifting, lending and investing money with peers on crowdfunding, peer-to-peer microlending, crowd investing and social investing communities.

2 Crowdfunding Communities

Source: analogica on Flickr

We are using crowdfunding platforms to collectively fund a wide variety of projects we are passionate about, through donations. Typical projects include technology (gadgets, games, applications), art (music, movies, books), citizen journalism, scientific research and societal causes. In return, we receive a reward, which might include a product, a customized experience, equity, or simply recognition, depending on the type of platform and project. Crowdfunding platforms focus on a wide range of projects, including creative projects (Kickstarter (video), indiegogo (video)), personal projects (GoFundMe(video)), music projects (ArtistShare (video)), non-profits (CrowdRise(video), Razoo (video)), patients (GiveForward (video), Watsi), public spaces (SpaceHive (video)) and food businesses (Credibles (video)).

indiegogo Crowdfunding Platform

We are using microlending communities to give loans to small entrepreneurs and people in need, based on their personal story or project idea, to help them achieve their goals or earn better returns for ourselves. Some microlending communities focus on peer-to-peer loans with the promise of better returns (Prosper, Zopa (video), Lending Club) while others focus on helping those in need (Kiva Zip (video), Rang De (video), BuzzBnk (video), Zidisha, United Prosperity, Vittana (video), LendWithCare (video)).


Finally, we are using crowd investing platforms to put money in promising startup ventures for equity, in the hope of exponential financial returns. The current crowd investing platforms typically work with high net worth experienced investors to reduce risk (Symbid (video), Seedrs (video), CrowdCube (video), WeFunder (video)), but we expect truly peer-to-peer crowd investing platforms to emerge as government regulations allow such platforms. These crowd investing platforms are different from social investing communities (Currensee (video), eToro (video), Zulu Trade (video), Ayondo (video), Tradency (video)), on which investors can follow and replicate each others’ investment portfolios, share investment tips and earn both reputation and financial returns.

Symbid in 60 seconds

All these types of platforms follow a similar model. People seeking funds post a project, share their own personal story and the details of their project, and try to attract a community. The community funds the project through donations, loans or investments and supports it on social media. In return, the project owner gives them the promised reward and shares updates on the progress of the project.

Some of these platforms have achieved significant scale and success. For instance, almost 1 million Kiva lenders have given $460 million in loans to 1 million borrowers. 4.6 million Kickstarter backers have pledged $745 million in donations to more than 45,000 projects.

In the future, we expect niche crowdfunding, microlending and crowd investing platforms to focus on specific geographies and markets, and larger platforms to expand into new areas through organic growth, acquisitions and partnerships. We also expect some niche crowdfunding platforms to focus on connecting brands with creators and backers. Finally, we expect corporations, including banks, to create their own crowdfunding platforms, and ask their community members to fund projects and non-profits on a matching grant basis.

For instance, brands are now creating dedicated crowdfunding platforms (Dodge Dart Registry (video), Microsoft Windows Chip In) or partnering with niche crowdfunding platforms to help people find funds to buy their products (Hyundai & Motozuma (video)). Financial institutions are also creating platforms (Volksbank Bühl – Viele Schaffen Mehr (video)) and apps (Fidor Bank) to help customers interested in crowdfunding or crowd investing. – Crowdfunding in der Volksbank Bühl

3) Online, Mobile, Social and Virtual Payment Ecosystems

People are not only moving spends to peer-to-peer transactions, but also using new payment methods like online payments, social payments and virtual currencies, and mobile payments.

As much of our shopping shifts to online and mobile, we want to use payment options that don’t require us to share credit card details with each merchant, carry our credit cards around with us, or pay merchants a commission for payments to friends and family. To this end, we are using online payment systems from established players like PayPal and Visa (video), but also startups like free peer-to-peer payment platform Ripple (video) and prepaid card platform Akimbo (video).

We are also using a range of social payment platforms and virtual currencies to pay online. Chirpify (video)) lets us pay inline on social networks, Flattr (video) lets us ‘tip’ our favorite content creators every month, and Pay with a Tweet (video) lets us pay content creators with online word of mouth. Virtual currencies (BitCoin (video), Dwolla, Ven (video), Feathercoin (video)) let us make online payments, including peer to peer payments and merchant payments. These currencies are created and supported by software algorithms, instead of governments and central banks – although some governments are beginning to experiment with their own virtual currencies (Canada’s MintChip (video)).

What is BitCoin?

We are also using a range of mobile payment options, including peer-to-peer mobile payments, and contactless NFC or QR code enabled mobile payments. Peer-to-peer mobile payment platforms like M-PESA (video) and Venmo (video)), let us transfer money to family and friends, often without paying a transaction fees. Contactless mobile payment solutions, enabled by NFC (Square Wallet, Visa PayWave, VeriFone PAYware (video), MasterCard PayPass (video)) or QR code (PayConnect (video), LevelUp (video)) let us make payments without handing over our cards to merchants, by simply tapping our cards on sensor enabled readers or making cloud payments on our smart phones.

Introduction to M-PESA: Mobile Money in Developing Economies

As we are making payments via a range of mobile payment options, we are also seeing merchants, including small retail and service businesses use connected mobile devices like PayPal Here (video), Intuit GoPayment (video) and Square (video) to accept such payments. These devices also power advanced billing registers and provide extensive data analysis and insights to merchants (Square Business Analytics).


Source: gdsdigital on Flickr

Some of these platforms and apps have achieved significant scale and success. PayPal has 132 million active registered accounts in 193 markets and supports payments in 25 currencies. Bitcoin sees $45 million of activity per day, with 11 million Bitcoins, worth $1.1 billion, currently in circulation. 4.5 million people have bought products online with social payment system Pay with a Tweet.

In the future, we expect all banks to create online, mobile and social payment platforms as a core offering. We expect retailers to create custom mobile payment and loyalty apps, apart from adopting third party apps. Finally, we expect banks and retailers to create programs that recognize and reward social currency.

For instance, banks are already creating mobile and social apps to let people make peer to peer payments (CommBank Kaching for Facebook and Mobile(video), DenizBank Facebook Branch, American Express Serve (video), Barclays Pingit (video), ANZ goMoney (video)). Several of these bank apps have crossed the 1 million users mark.


View the full infographic at

Starbucks has created its own custom mobile payment app (video) and also partnered with Square Wallet to create one (video). Finally, American Ex press with Sync (Twitter (video), Facebook, Foursquare), and Tesco with Wine Co-buys (video) are creating programs that enable customers to earn discounts or freebies by paying with word of mouth.

Amex Sync On Twitter

4) Money Management Applications & Mobile Wallets

People are managing money by setting goals and comparing spending against similar others, and using mobile wallets to replace their paper money and plastic cards.



We are becoming smarter about managing our money by using personal finance applications that enable us to set financial goals, compare our spending with similar others, and tap into the power of our networks to reach our goals. These apps use a combination of quantification and gamification to give us insights and help us change our behaviors (Mint (video), Payoff(video), Simple (video), Moven (video), Check (video), SaveUp (video), Easy Envelope Budget Aid (video)). They ask us to link our bank, credit card, loan and other accounts to get access to our financial data streams. They then break up our spending into categories, help us set smart goals by comparing our category-wise spends against similar others, and track our category-wise spending against budgets.  We are also using money management apps that focus on niche areas, like managing medical payments (Simplee (video)), gift cards (Gyft (video)), frequent flier miles (Superfly), grocery lists and coupons (GroceryIQ), and bills (BillMinder). The Best Free Way to Manage your Money

Similarly, business owners are using data analysis apps to find patterns and manage their transaction activity (Square Register (video), TabbedOut (video), Clover).

We are also replacing our physical wallets, with mobile wallets that store all our credit card, debit card and loyalty card details, and enable us to make payments with our smart phones without carrying around our cards. Banks, financial services firms, mobile operators, internet startups and retailers are all creating a range of mobile wallet services, either on their own, or in partnership with others. These include Square Wallet, Google Wallet (video), Toro NFC Wallet (video), Visa Digital Wallet (video), Lemon Wallets (video), Droplet (video), WingCash (video), (video), Isis Wallet (video, by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon) and MCX (by Walmart, Target and BestBuy).

Isis Mobile Wallet for Smartphone Payments

Some of these platforms and apps have achieved significant scale and success. 10 million people manage 2 million financial goals on and have tracked $80 billion in credit and debit transactions and $1 trillion in loans and assets.

In the future, we expect all banks to create such money management applications and mobile wallets as a core offering. We also expect that mobile wallets will offer similar analytics and insights as money management applications, and replace applications that help us manage only one type of transactions. We believe that the mobile wallets of the future will not only track our financial transactions, but also integrate social currency. Finally, we expect that mobile wallets will offer seamless online, mobile and social payment options that we outlined in the previous section.

For instance, banks are already creating data analysis platforms that compare people’s spending habits to similar others (Capitec Bank Budgetanator (video), Commonwealth Bank Signals (video), UB Bank PeopleLikeU) and money management dashboards that help people analyze their spending (MBank (video), Knab (video), ICICI Money Manager).

PeopleLikeU: The World’s First Econographic Tool

5) Grassroots Change Movement and Collaborative Social Innovation Initiatives

Traditional banks and financial services firms are not only exploring the services we outlined above to compete with new players, but also engaging their customers in grassroots change movements and collaborative social innovation initiatives.

Multiple studies (Capgemini’s World Retail Banking Report 2013 and JD Powers’ 2013 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study) show that satisfaction with banks has increased in the last year, as banks are actively addressing consumer’s unhappiness. At the same time, banks are trying to win over the trust of their customers, by creating grassroots change movement and collaborative social innovation initiatives around a shared purpose.


Source: opensourceway on Flickr

Collaborative social innovation initiatives involve businesses, governments, non-profits and change makers coming together to co-create innovative and sustainable solutions around a shared purpose. Such initiatives typically focus on the areas that have the highest potential to create shared value: environment, energy and sustainability; health, wellness and nutrition; education, learning and capability building; and governance, public services and public spaces. Change makers are typically rewarded with prize money, recognition, funding or support; organizations find solutions to important challenges; and society at large benefits from the innovative solutions.

A number of banks are creating collaborative social innovation initiatives. Some banks sponsor pre-existing social innovation initiatives. For instance, Citi partnered with NBC News and NewSchools Venture Fun to launch the annual Citi Innovation Challenge to reward innovation in education. Other banks are creating their own initiatives and collaborative communities. Barclays encourages customers to co-create a new community driven credit card with Barclaycard Ring (video). Fidor Bank encourages customers to advise each other on financial planning (video). KBC Bank created the collective intelligence platform The Gap in the Market (video) to crowdsource local opportunities for entrepreneurs and reward the best business ideas. Finally, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank created PlanBig (video) and American Express created OPENForum (video), ecosystems that connect and support communities of entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Bendigo & Adelaide Bank’s PlanBig – Ideas Made Bigger

Grassroots change movements involve a large numbers of people acting as change agents, in their own lives or in their communities, in a way that their actions can be aggregated or coordinated, leading to significant impact and meaningful change. Grassroots change movements might be catalyzed and managed by organizations, including corporations, or they might be sparked by an event and spontaneously spread through the initiative of volunteers, as we have seen with the recent string of political movements across the globe.  Now, many organizations are applying a similar approach to catalyze behavior change and create shared value in the areas of environment, energy and sustainability; health, wellness and nutrition; education, learning and capability building; and happiness, kindness and human potential.

A number of banks are creating grassroots change movement initiatives. For instance, American Express inspired millions of Americans to shop at independent vendors to support local businesses on Small Business Saturday (2010 video, 2011 video, 2012 video). Chase and American Express inspired large numbers of people to support their favorite causes through crowdvoting giving initiatives like Chase Community Giving (video), American Express Members Project (video) and American Express Partners in Preservation (video).

AmEx Small Business Saturday 2012

In Summary

In summary, we believe the following three patterns will shape the future of money, and the future of banking:

  1. Banks and financial services firms are now competing with internet companies, mobile operators, retail chains and six-person startups to invent the future of money. We expect banks and firms to not only learn best practices from these players, but also partner with them, and even acquire them to fuel innovation. As an example, Intuit acquired cloud-based money management platform to complement its largely desktop-based software Quicken.
  2. Financial services firms need to engage their customers around at least one of two motives: shared purpose and self-improvement. Specifically, we expect banks and firms to heavily invest in quantification and gamification technologies that promote financial literacy and well-being among consumers and small business owners. As an example, Aetna acquired self-improvement game MindBloom to help customers achieve wellness goals and maintain better health in the long run.
  3. The meaning of value, currency, money and payments itself is changing. We expect banks to not only invest in online, mobile, and social payments, but also build services around the sharing economy and social currency. As an example, American Express recently expanded its AmEx Sync features to let people redeem discounts and purchase products via social networks directly.

As we mention in our report on the future of engagement, we believe, like William Gibson, “that the future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed.” For the banks and financial services firms of today to survive in the future, it is crucial for them to innovate, engage and diversify not just to stay ahead, but to stay relevant at all.

[1] A gift economy, gift culture or gift exchange is a mode of exchange where valuables are given without an explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards (via Wikipedia)

[2] Whuffie is the ephemeral, reputation-based currency of Cory Doctorow’s science fiction novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (via Wikipedia)


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18 Responses to “Essay: The Future of Money”

  1. MSLGROUP Peoples Lab (@PeoplesLab) September 3, 2013 at 1:13 pm # Reply

    For the Future of Money essay (How social & mobile are changing the way people earn, manage & spend money), read

  2. MSLGROUP Peoples Lab (@PeoplesLab) September 4, 2013 at 11:59 am # Reply

    For highlights from our Future of Money essay do check out the Future of Money #Infographic –

  3. @donschindler September 4, 2013 at 2:46 pm # Reply

    What will money and financing look like in the future?

  4. Nidhi Makhija September 5, 2013 at 12:10 pm # Reply

    Another great branded initiative – The Leon Bond: According to trendwatching:

    “In July 2012 UK-based healthy fast food franchise Leon created Leon Bonds to raise GBP 1.5 million from its customers (rather than corporate investors), so it could further expand and open new locations. Investors received interest in £eon pounds (store credit)”

  5. @Gauravonomics September 5, 2013 at 12:14 pm # Reply

    RT @PeoplesLab: For highlights from our Future of Money essay do check out the Future of Money #Infographic – http:/…

  6. @wtfhasia September 8, 2013 at 1:59 am # Reply

    The future of money #trends @JosieJosieg

  7. MSLGROUP Peoples Lab (@PeoplesLab) September 11, 2013 at 5:30 pm # Reply

    Check out our essay on the Future of Money

  8. MSLGROUP Peoples Lab (@PeoplesLab) September 16, 2013 at 5:55 pm # Reply

    Social and mobile technologies are changing the way people earn, manage and spend money – #FutureofMoney

  9. Nidhi Makhija September 23, 2013 at 9:59 am # Reply

    Another example of alternative currencies, this one in a suburb of Paris –ère-ile-france-101558806.html

    (HT @pbeucler)

  10. @hublaunchpad October 1, 2013 at 10:35 am # Reply

    How social & mobile tech are changing the way people earn, manage & spend #money #crowdfunding #open

  11. @fdemeyer October 2, 2013 at 2:56 pm # Reply

    This will keep you buzy for some time, but well worth it: “The Future of Money” via @PeoplesLab

  12. MSLGROUP Peoples Lab (@PeoplesLab) October 3, 2013 at 1:44 pm # Reply

    RT @fdemeyer: This will keep you buzy for some time, but well worth it: “The Future of Money” via @PeoplesLab

  13. Nidhi Makhija October 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm # Reply

    Infographic – QR vs NFC and the future of credit card payments

  14. Nidhi Makhija (@NidhiMakhija) December 15, 2013 at 11:32 am # Reply

    RT @fdemeyer: This will keep you buzy for some time, but well worth it: “The Future of Money” via @PeoplesLab

  15. @manojnayak December 16, 2013 at 9:16 am # Reply

    Essay: The Future of Money | People’s Lab via @instapaper

  16. MSLGROUP Peoples Lab (@PeoplesLab) January 2, 2014 at 9:18 am # Reply

    Essay: How the latest tech & people trends are changing the Future of Money


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