Spark

Adapting to tech disruption in the financial sector

From robo-advisors to a return to gold.
(Reuters)

Our series, From Bartering to Bitcoin, has been looking at how rapidly changing technology is making us think differently about money. As part of that series, we want to see how the world of finance is being disrupted, and how Canada's financial establishment is working to remain relevant and on top of the latest financial technology, or fintech, as it's called.

One challenge the banking industry is facing is that millennials seem to want nothing to do with them. A recent survey found that 71% of millennials would rather go to the dentist than go to the bank.

Kyle Prevost is a high school teacher in Birtle, Manitoba. In addition to his day job, Kyle runs a website called Young and Thrifty where he dispenses financial advice for millennials like himself.

On his website, Kyle has been writing about a trend that's taken the US by storm and has now moved into Canada as well. It's called "robo-advising." In robo-advising, you make your investments entirely online, and automation helps ensure you get the best return on your investment, all without leaving your couch.
Kyle Prevost runs the website Young and Thrifty 6:34

Another person interested in how new technologies are affecting the roles traditionally held by big banks, is Colleen Johnston. Colleen is TD Bank's head of technology and former Chief Financial Operator. For her bank, she sees a future in creating partnerships with startups that help them scale and get customers, and keep the bank at the forefront of technological disruption. But besides realizing that they have to cater to an entire generation that has never seen interest on a savings account, Canada's big banks are also facing a challenge that's potentially much bigger: the notion of money itself.

Darrell MacMullin has been at the forefront of technology and money for years. He's the man responsible for launching both eBay and PayPal in Canada. In his latest endeavour, as CEO of Goldmoney, his goal is to reclaim gold and use it as a stable, single 7:45
Darrell MacMullin is the man who launched both eBay and PayPal in Canada. Now he wants you to buy gold as the CEO of Personal and Business for Goldmoney.
(Jacquelyn Humphrey)
Instead of the tons of bullion James Bond was trying to protect in Goldfinger, he is working with gold by the gram. Darrell believes that gold is a true, transnational currency not unlike Bitcoin. Except that gold has at least one advantage over Bitcoin: it's a real, solid thing that's stored in a vault, and it's value rarely fluctuates over time.
Colleen Johnston, TD bank's head of technology and former CFO, explains how the big banks are trying to stay relevant. 6:41

When it comes down to it, Kyle, Darrell and Colleen all agree that removing so-called "friction" from the process of banking and spending and borrowing money is really the key to advancing the system. Examples of this sort of friction include lining up to speak to a bank teller or to withdraw money from an ATM, or having to pay fees when exchanging one currency for another.

When Colleen says that the banks aren't really facing an existential threat, it's a claim that both Darrell and Kyle, however reluctantly, agree with.

When Colleen says that the banks aren't really facing an existential threat, it's a claim that both Darrell and Kyle, however reluctantly, agree with. There's one other thing they do agree on: The times they are a'changin. 4:43

There's one other thing they do agree on: The times they are a'changin.

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