We all have that one friend who says, ‘The world would have been so much better without money and everyone shares everything”. Well, we did have that world once, and it surely didn’t work. Barter system, universally considered as the first form of financial transaction, involved the exchange of goods and services between people. But imagine if that system were to prevail; we would probably still be living in ancient times. The practical and logistical drawbacks of the barter system, led humans to innovate to find simpler ways of transacting financially. Let’s look at some of the most innovative solutions we have come up with over the years.
One of the first innovations in the financial world, currencies completely changed the game. Thought to have started in China as small replicas made with bronze around 1100 BC, which later developed into round coins for practical reasons. Some coastal regions around the Indian Ocean are known to have used Cowrie Shells in trade as early as 1200 BC. The first official currency to be released was minted by King Alyattes of Lydia, now in Turkey. The arrival of currencies marked a rise in trade across the world. While coins ruled the global trade for centuries, it took a while for paper notes to get popular, with the first bank notes printed in Sweden in 1661 AD.
Credit / Debit Cards
In 1946 AD, John Biggins invented the ‘Charge-it’ Card, the world’s first credit card. The advent of plastic money changed the world forever. People didn’t need to carry large amounts of cash for transactions and trade any more. Although dangerous in the wrong hands, plastic cards proved to be a huge advancement for civilization.
The cash dispenser was born almost 50 years ago, in 1967; marking the early days of digital banking. There are various claims about the first ATM. The idea of a machine that dispenses cash rooted from the popularity of self-service kiosks for other things like candies and newspaper. In the beginning, these machines were adopted by Europe in a big way, as a response to increased unionization and labor costs. Since then, ATM’s have become an integral part of the banking system, with more and more services being offered as time passed.
Internet and Mobile Banking
Mobile banking began in 1999 in Europe. Back in the day, it was known as SMS Banking and people could remotely conduct transactions through their mobile phones. As the internet increased in popularity and reach, internet banking evolved; and has rapidly turned into the preferred choice of banking for people around the world. With Smart Phones coming in, banking apps and other financial apps completely revolutionized the way people use financial services.
International Money Transfer
With the evolution of global trade, businessmen across the world evolved their own systems of making payments across geographies. The Indians came up with Hundi and the Chinese used ‘flying money’. in the 1800s electronic fund transfer via telegram developed as the predecessor of today’s formal money transfer. As people began to migrate to other countries, more robust channels developed offering convenience and security to customers. Today Money Transfer Operators like Xpress Money are changing the game, with new services and technologies, reaching every corner of the world.
While the above represent the big innovations in money, there have been countless other innovations in the financial sector such as the establishment of stock markets, mortgages and Investment instruments, that have reshaped our economic landscape over the years. While in the past, many financial innovations were designed to primarily benefit financial institutions and businesses, the innovation game today has completely changed. Today, it is all about the customers; their convenience and the value that they get from any new service. We are living in a time of a paradigm shift in the financial services industry facing technologies we had never imagined and working towards constant betterment and progress. Our search for better ways to transact and use money continues even today with crypto currencies and blockchain technology at the cusp of ushering in a whole new financial ecosystem.