David Bowie was a legend in the music industry, but his name was also a presence in financial services, where his identity was synonymous with innovation.
Bowie died Sunday at age 69 following a battle with cancer. Perhaps the most influential of the financial products to bear his name during his life were the Bowie Bonds, which the performer introduced in 1997 as a way to securitize royalty streams and monetize future earnings.
Another effort that is lesser-known is BancBowie, the name of a niche Internet bank. Fifteen years ago, many financial institutions saw online banking as a separate product from mainstream bank accounts; signing up for an online bank account was seen as equivalent to signing up for checks with cartoon characters on them. This mindset gave rise to niche banks for women, pet lovers and David Bowie fans.
The concept eventually faded, as banks realized the Web was a channel that required the same level of integration as its other points of customer contact. But every so often someone tries the concept again; the rise of prepaid cards gave life to products themed around well-known personalities ranging from the financially savvy Suze Orman to the extravagant Kardashian sisters.
A much more recent trend is the development of niche currencies, usually playfully named variants of bitcoin. But there are also new physical currencies, or what The New York Times calls "artisanal cash." In Brixton, a district of London, these include a £10 note with an image of David Bowie, a Brixton native, the Times said in an article published Aug. 9, 2015. The idea behind this designer cash is to encourage spending at the local businesses that accept it, making it a similar concept to the Plenti multi-retailer rewards program championed by American Express.
David Bowie's influence on financial services may not be as well-remembered as his influence on culture and entertainment, but it's clear that anytime there is an innovative financial product in need of a name, Bowie could take the spotlight again.
Daniel Wolfe is Editor in Chief of PaymentsSource.