The following is my contribution to a special report put together by Citrix Labs and recently presented to the Federal Government. I was asked to imagine what the economic landscape of 2030 might look like, specifically on the topic of productivity growth and how it could impact the way Australians work in 2030.
Published April 2012.
Financing the future
Every time I think about the march of technology I think back to my late teens when I thought I was an early adopter as a credit card holder. It was the latest thing in financial transactions and was meant to be ushering in a cashless society; except that it was tied to a cheque book and it took a couple of weeks for the payments to be reconciled in my account.
In the 40 years since then, we have progressed to smart chips in cards which debit in real time and mobile phones which enable me to do all my banking at the push of a couple of buttons. While society is a lot more cashless than it once was, we still carry around and use the folding stuff. Paradoxically, where security was once seen as one of the major drivers of technological advance – you wouldn’t want to be caught in a dodgy area with a pocket full of cash – now the cost of online fraud is causing headaches. Those headaches will continue to drive the big advances in online financial transactions.
Fingerprint and retina reading technologies are providing comfort in some situations but by 2030 there’s little doubt that there will be other systems in place – perhaps voice recognition – to enable secure payments and transactions both off-line and online.
While the financial sector has adopted some technological advances, banks for example, have still been slow to convert from offline to online. Applying for credit cards, mortgages or finances should be a lot easier than it is.
In the next two decades it’s likely that every transaction you have with your bank or insurance agency will be entirely online, with CBD shopfronts for these institutions a thing of the past. The rich, however, will still be able to have that face-to-face discussion about high value transactions.
In fact, the wealthy will be able to increasingly utilise concierge services to do their daily tasks. Technology is giving the capacity to gather more and more intimate knowledge about people – their lives and their tastes and preferences for just about any product or service. As this data-mining technology becomes more accurate and more sophisticated, it will be used by professional concierges to complete everyday tasks on your behalf – buying everything from clothes to cars and food as the technology will predict with a high degree of accuracy just what you may have purchased for yourself.
For the rest of us, shopping will be largely through online retailers, with the speciality stores that survive and prosper doing so because they can give you the touch, feel and taste of products while still enabling you to order online.
Woolworths are already trialling technology that enables you to walk through a supermarket with a device in your hand. You point the device at a product, click the ‘’I’ll have that’’ button and collect your goods at the end of the process. The technology is available for the cost of those products to be automatically debited from your account as you click, giving an instant payment system.
Although more and more people will be working remotely from their offices, many will chose to live in CBDs, which will have fewer professional shopfronts and more service outlets.
At the moment I have two companies – one in Sydney and one in Brisbane – but I live on the Gold Coast and go to work in a totally self-contained office in my home. It has a big screen and is fully connected so that I can liaise with businesses and staff as frequently necessary.
In time, video conferencing technology will develop to the extent that we will be able to sit in our home offices and connect with people around the world and can not only work together, but watch movies and play boards games like chess in virtual reality together.
The growth of Asia will influence what we buy and sell, particularly as the multinational corporations become more Asian oriented – in both the boardroom and the marketplace – as they hold even more dominance over commerce. Many multinationals will be bigger than individual countries which will pose problems for nations that try to regulate their activities.
Australia’s adoption of compulsory superannuation is already a long way ahead of other countries in the provision of self-funded pensions. Despite the current GFC-induced downturn, stock markets will continue to thrive, however due to this downturn combined with the aging population, we are seeing changes in the way people are investing their superannuation funds.
Generally, as people get older they become more cautious investors and the pattern post-GFC is for a larger percentage to opt for fixed annuity style superannuation. This move, which is likely to continue, will undoubtedly encourage a lot of innovation in financial products in this area, with people increasingly seeking conservative investments that offer guaranteed returns plus flexibility.
One thing is for certain, the superannuants of 2030 won’t be getting paid by cheque. We might not be a completely cashless society by then, but I’m sure cheques will be consigned to history.