When Michael Jackson wrote one of his most iconic songs he was discussing the much larger issue of hate and prejudice. However, the millennials have taken this over as the defining song against the financial sector. From the developing nations like India, where the central bank and the government seem to be forever at odds, to the developed nation of Australia where a Royal Commission had to be established to look into fears of financial impropriety, this seems like a problem that runs deep.
The predatory and self-serving practices of banks have been well documented. Today, consumers are savvier and have understood that just accepting it as fate is not a solution. This has led many to accuse the younger crowd of being a generation of mourners, an accusation that has a hint of truth. However, it must also be remembered that, across the world, financial security has dipped to its lowest point, something that these same young people have to bear the burden of, apart from the other slew of indecisive actions, be it political or environmental.
An Erosion Of Trust
When the Global Financial Crisis [GFC] hit in 2008, central banks had to lower interest rates to unprecedented lows. In America, this hit 0 percent, which meant that people trying to save for their future were not getting any assistance from the financial institutions. This situation was exasperated when the same banks continued to charge the same interest rates on their lending instruments. To compound matters, there were reports that showed that the pay and bonuses of bank executives have hardly fared in line with other industries.
This sort of callous behavior has angered many and also led to others questioning for a more viable solution. Collages are awash with young graduates who point to Marxist, Leninist and whatever the latest ist is doing the rounds in political thought. While the writer might bemoan that the merits of socialism have not been properly effected, that would be better suited for a different article. The fact remains that most people are now seriously re-evaluating their interactions with banks.
A decided lack of trust has been highlighted in a slew of studies. A study last year by Edelman showed that more than 3 quarters of well to do millennials opined that traditional financial systems were unbalanced to favor their rich clientele. The same number felt that there were insufficient security measures that were in place to protect their savings or privacy. Finally, almost 80 percent fear another recession due to the actions of these same institutions.
The chasm of trust is further cleaved by the way most banks act and the feeling that most people leave a bank with. A majority feel that dealing with banks is a frustrating experience littered with confusing and abstruse terms and conditions. In fact, over 70 percent feel “out of their depth” after dealing with them. This leaves many vulnerable to a manipulative relationship, something that many suffer through. Thus unsurprising most people rate their experiences rather lowly when dealing with these financial institutions.
To top it all off, banks have time and again shown they are looking to serve a very select crowd. Their transparent behavior shows the industry to be by and large ageist, racist, and classist; all this is defended in the name of profits and capitalism. Thus there is little surprise that people are looking elsewhere.
The Long Path To An Alternate
After the debacle of the GFC, people were looking at this from all angles. Most experts pointed out the causes, most thinkers debated the cyclical nature of economics; none offered a solution. Then a teacher who called himself Satoshi Nakamura came up with the blockchain. A solution that is by no means perfect, but a way ahead that offers hope. In a decade since that whitepaper was published, it has almost hit mainstream consciousness.
A recent survey found that nearly 1 in 5 millennial own cryptos already, while nearly half are interested in cryptos. An increasing number have thought about cryptos as investment and savings option. The most encouraging signs are that a majority feel that blockchain if properly integrated into the current system would make it more secure.
From Europe to Africa, young people are eager to learn more about this technology. A reported 95 percent say they have yet to invest as they lack credible information while 77 percent say that they would be more inclined if a financial adviser recommended it to them.
While talking to people involved in the financial sector, from India to Australia, there is a common theme; the use of digital assets is not a bankable solution and just a flavor of the decade. One can hardly blame them for being cautious, and lacking knowledge about an emergent technology that rose to $20,000 and fell to $4000 in less than a year. However, it ignores the growing trend that has seen an additional 30 million people create an account, despite the price fluctuations.
This is clearly in recognition of the advantages offered by such cryptos, a practical solution to financial issues. Most people, even the detractors, concede that there are major advantages, ranging from lower transaction fees borne out of cutting middlemen, the distributed and incorruptible mechanism for record keeping makes stealing much harder. Finally, the advantage of online assets is that any sort of discrimination is unlikely and hard.
Empires rise and fall, fortunes change as do markets, and then there are some things that change the nature of our existence. The much-maligned generation of today is on the cusp of such a change. More and more underprivileged people are getting services and access to a better life today. The society, in general, is more aware of their actions and consequences. Thus a pertinent quote to all this was by the founder of Cardano, Charles Hoskinson when he said,
“The headlines from the media about the current state of Bitcoin and recent losses show they have never gotten our movement. $150 billion in value has been liberated from the banking system and now exists in a parallel economy.”