The ease of making financial transactions and financial services in general, had first been revolutionised when telegraph companies introduced wire transfers. But with the coming of new age financial services like Bitcoin and Ripple, it is the time we address the question of what the future holds for the financial services of the world.
Traditional Wire Transfers
Let us begin by first taking a look at how things have been going on for these past 150 years since wire transfers were first introduced. Transferring funds using a wire transfer method via a bank is not a single step process but a multi-step process. It is like this:
The sender approaches his or her bank and orders the transfer of funds to an account. Unique codes like BIC and IBAN codes are provided to the bank by the sender so that the bank knows exactly where the funds need to be transferred.
The sender’s bank contacts the receiver’s bank by sending a message through a security system, such as Fedwire or SWIFT, signalling it that a transfer needs to be made. The receiver’s bank receives this message, which includes settlement instructions as well, and then asks the sender’s bank to transfer the amount specified in the message.
The sender’s bank now transfers the amount. This is not done in one go but bit by bit, so it can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days for the entire sum to be transferred.
To make the transfer, the two banks must have a reciprocal account with one another. If that is not the case, the transfer is made through a correspondent bank that holds such an account.
As one can see, this form of transfer relies overly on a mediator, takes more time than it should, and can prove to be costly as the banks charge some fee for their service. Distributed currencies like Bitcoin provide a viable alternative to this process.
What sets services like Bitcoin apart from traditional services is that they do not rely on a central mediator but rather operate using cryptographic protocols. The process is therefore faster, simpler, and much more efficient. The system is quite transparent to both end users as well while traditional systems are susceptible to fraud due to the complex process involved.
However, there is a downside to this too. With services like Bitcoin, it is simple to trace a transaction back to each unit value’s creation.
Solution? A Common Ground
More and more people are opting for services like Bitcoin and peer-to-peer mobile transfers, where a network operator could help users transfer funds by simply sending an SMS. Although these are indeed more efficient, they are a long way from global acceptance because there are many who still do not have bank accounts, plus there is the issue of limited user identification in such services.
What would be ideal for everyone is if banks could tap into the potential of decentralized currencies and overlap the source code of services like Ripple on their existing system to form a hybrid of the two. It would kill two birds with one stone as:
Decentralized currency systems provide more efficient transfers
Bank systems ensure only registered users access the service, taking away the possibility of foul play.
The world has come a long way since the last time an indigenous financial service system was introduced. There is definitely a crying need to improve this traditional service and decentralized currencies like Bitcoin have shown them the way.