Cryptocurrency and blockchain are the last, best way to win young consumers
Many banks have improved their digital services for their own needs, but the primary focus has been on bringing brick-and-mortar functionality online. They historically lag behind in adoption of true innovation, a competitive handicap when trying to capture generations that have grown up at the pace of the internet.
It doesn't help that the most promising development for fintech's future is also one of the most controversial: cryptocurrency.
Blockchain, bitcoin, ICO, smart contracts — it can be dizzying just trying to understand the basic definitions tied to these emerging assets. With all the hyperbole, regulatory uncertainty and wild market fluctuations, it seems like one day we're witnessing a ripoff and the next, a revolution. It makes already risk-averse financial institutions reluctant to leap forward into the future. However, those that fail to catch the wave are putting themselves at a serious disadvantage.
Millennials and Gen Z, after all, fully embrace cryptocurrency. The promise of this new asset class aligns with them on several critical fronts:
Greater equality and ownership. A baby boomer might recoil at the thought of a society without centralized institutions acting as stewards for power and resources. Millennials and Gen Z, however, lived through the 2008 financial crisis and the ensuing global recession. Institutional greed caused their inherited economic conditions, and as a result, their feelings toward the current financial system range from apathy to outright mistrust.
By providing instant verification through immutable code, the blockchain bypasses the need for "trusted" third parties and allows the user to retain full control of their assets. Low cost of entry and a democratic ethos also boost crypto's credentials as a path for giving power back to the people, a highly attractive value for these demographics.
The life of a digital native is online, borderless and mobile. Cryptocurrency, born of the web, fits perfectly into this new paradigm. It eliminates the hassle of cross-border payments and banking.
It lives in its own self-contained environment and isn't subject to global political events beyond an individual's control.
It enables anyone with an internet connection to access financial services, including those unable to participate in traditional banking.
It will be a long time before centralized payments and banking are obsolete, but for the digital demographic, crypto investments are a more convenient way to participate in the global, community-based economy.