You may not know it’s happening, but we are witnessing the slow disappearance of the High Street bank, and with it the sound of rattling coins and rustling notes. In their place, in the evolution of financial processing, will be licensed Software Houses and the efficient, secure and invisible hum of electronic currency.
It is the most significant event since the Phoenicians switched from barter to gold a millennium ago, or the Italian money merchants of Lombardy opened the first bank (banco) in London’s Lombard Street in the seventeenth century. The transitions from barter to gold, and gold to bank notes, are equivalent to what we are now about to witness in the transition from notes to electronic currency. It surpasses the existing technologies of CHIPS, CHAPS and RTGS systems, themselves harbingers of today’s Internet savvy environment. It involves the total replacement of physical or hard currency with a new, virtual unit of exchange. The closest we will get to touching it is when it’s loaded onto our SmartCards, and the closest banks will get to processing it will be through newly formed alliances with technology partners.