Uber made a difference in already three of my recent trips : one being Bogota, for last year Nextbank, the second being Boston and now I know I will extensively use the service in Mexico City for NextBank Americas (I am actually writing this post in the long 11 hours flight to get there).
For the fraction of my readers who don’t know what UBER is (I could name a couple of them, amongst my favourite readers, the same persons who are right now reading this post with an English-Italian dictionary beside the computer), let me explain : UBER is a beautifully designed app on most smartphones that allows to use a very powerful taxi service, charging directly your credit card and most importantly empowering any driver to become an UBER driver, making some extra money and working whenever he or she feels to. UBER is driven by feedback, to drivers and passengers, is truly ubiquitous and most importantly has a price that varies with demand.
I don’t know why at SIBOS in Boston people was stubbornly waiting in a 200 people line to take a cab back to their hotel or wherever the next meeting was. I had Uber on my phone, pick the hotel just beside the Convention Centre, just 30 meters away and had my cab in 5 minutes or less.
Okay, maybe price was more expensive (but if I can afford it so the bank-expensed SIBOS delegates could too). Maybe you need to download the app and you are too lazy to. Whatever. We are not here to talk about this.
What is GREAT about UBER is what it represents : a true disruption to a super consolidated and traditional business (the Taxis) where technology allowed ubiquity, distribution, social trust and scale in a disrupted way.
The challenge sounds familiar ?
In one of many taxi rides to the Conference Centre I asked myself : why can’t I have an UBER-like bank ?
Let’s play with the idea for a moment and let’s make it easier to bring it to the ground.
- I will land in Mexico City tonight. I have brought my company credit card, which if course will be charged with foreign exchange commission and even an amount per transaction in certain cases. That is for both payments and withdrawals.
- A local, Snapchat-like account that lasts the time I stay in the country. With a VIRTUAL prepaid card I can use to pay locally, (ok, planned on time a physical one can do as well).
- When I leave the country, money goes back to my “global wallet” I have set up with UBER bank.
- If my bank has a branch, should not be a problem to get a light KYC for a limited amount of money, right ?…
This could happen as well without regulation at all, amongst individuals.
Let me put it this way : if I trust someone, that happen to live in Mexico City, I could have sent him some money, then asked him to issue a prepaid card with the same amount on and give it to me tonight when I land (or get it delivered to my hotel, like a prepaid phone).
Why nobody has thought yet to a similar service ?
The answer is : too soon, and payments are not disrupted yet.
Imagine a future where you could pay with your phone everywhere, where the need for plastic cards would be replaced by virtual ones, and where KYC for consumer, limitedly empowered customers (yet enough to stay few days in a country, not too much to allow money laundering or dirty business) will be easier.
That moment, the UBER momentum will come naturally.
Airbnb is hitting hotels industry the same way.
Who will to this to Banks ?