The Future of Financial Services

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.

Decentralized Currencies

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:

    1. Decentralized currency systems provide more efficient transfers

 

  1. Bank systems ensure only registered users access the service, taking away the possibility of foul play.

Conclusion

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.

Five Practical Steps for Critical Estate Planning

According to data from the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils, over 120 million Americans don’t have updated plans to protect their families when accident, sickness, or death happens.

Jumpstarting the estate planning process can be the most significant present you give your family so that your loved ones aren’t left with uncertainty and conflict. These five steps can help you start the process and provide clarity to your family about your last wishes.

1. Create a Will

If you die without a will, the court will decide what to do with assets, debts, and even your children. This is called dying intestate, and it leaves the distribution process up to the state law where you reside. To write a valid will, simply focus on stating exactly who you choose to inherit your property, and also write who you want as a guardian for your kids in case something happens to the other parent as well. If proper planning is not completed, your family will be stuck in probate court, which is time-consuming and expensive.

2. Consider a Trust

If you want to avoid the probate process entirely, consider setting up a revocable trust. If you hold your assets in this manner, you will essentially transfer ownership of your property to a trust that includes exact details on distribution when you die. Because the information is contained within one document, you are able to skip probate completely.

3. Set Up Life Insurance

Life insurance is a smart idea, especially if you have young kids, are a homeowner, or you will likely owe a large amount of estate tax after you die. You will need to make sure that you have adequate coverage for your family to meet all of their expenses when you’re no longer there to help. Consider purchasing term life insurance, which can be an affordable option as you pay a fixed premium for the entire life of the term.

4. Assemble End-of-Life Documents

Beyond wills, trusts, and life insurance, critical estate planning should also involve assembling three important end-of-life documents. To help your loved ones follow your wishes when you can’t, you should make sure they have these three documents:

– A power of attorney that allows your designated agent to manage your legal affairs and financial situation.

– A form that allows the release of information from your doctors to chosen representatives.

– An advance directive form where someone is named to make medical decisions when you’re incapacitated, and a living will to detail exactly what medical treatment you desire when your life is ending.

5. Learn About Estate Taxes

Although the majority of estates will not owe taxes, if you have a taxable estate that is worth over $5.43 million, it is important to understand how much you will owe and how to strategically minimize that amount. For example, if you leave all assets to your spouse, that distribution will be tax exempt.