Welcome to the first issue of Money Minutes. I’m going to jump right in by talking about the biggest buzzwords in tech over the last few months and a summary of my favourites in personal finance.
Blockchain is the technology that has transformed the Fintech industry as well as the wider economy since its launch in 2008. It’s a type of technology, much like information technology or medical technology. The key things about it are:
it’s a ledger: much like an accountant’s ledger (I know I moved away from my accounting job, but this explanation really helps here) transactions are time stamped, accurately recorded, and every single movement is recorded so you can see a full audit trail of where money has been. In the blockchain, these transactions (or blocks) are automatically and permanently recorded, making up the chain.
it’s decentralised, which means there isn’t one person or company that controls, owns or can make changes to the ledger or record of transactions. This makes blockchain super secure and almost ‘un-hackable’. A transaction (or block) is recorded by a node, which could be a phone or a laptop, and to hack the blockchain the hacker would need to control a huge proportion of these nodes.
So when we speak about cryptocurrencies, we say they operate via or through the blockchain. This way, your transactions are protected from fraud and third parties because of the decentralised nature of the blockchain ledger.
You are the sole owner of the currencies you buy, not the bank or any other legal entity. The currencies are usually held in digital wallets, protected by keys which are irrecoverable and must be kept safe.
Cryptocurrency is virtual money, the flow of which is tracked using Blockchain technology. It’s a way of having total ownership over your own wealth, especially with the traction and value that leading cryptocurrencies have gained in the last 10 years.
But why is crypto relevant to me and my money?
It’s no surprise that with the inflation rate reaching 7% by Spring this year, the value of fiat currency (your government currency, so in the UK the Great British Pound) is reducing. You have less purchasing power with money that just sits in your bank account, that we use in our day-to-day lives.
So people and institutions, large institutions, are looking into investing into various digital assets in order to hedge (or, protect) against rising inflation rates and diversify their portfolio. Investing with a proper strategy, and with long-term wealth in mind, it’s a great way to get a much higher return for money that would otherwise be sitting in a savings account.
In the last 10 years, Bitcoin has shown a return of 139% on an investment of $1,000 (annualised and adjusted for inflation). However, it’s super volatile, as you have hopefully noticed from the multiple ‘crypto crashes’ during the pandemic. Cryptocurrency investments can definitely be classified as a high risk, high reward asset to invest in.
After having a basic understanding of Blockchain and cryptocurrencies, it could be quite useful to ask yourself:
What are the things we’ve done because we’ve always done them?
What does or doesn’t really need to exist anymore?
Think of the above in terms of banks, lending, credit, and the day-to-day running of your finances. Will this force banks to change the way they operate? Will ‘virtual branches’ become a thing? Is there more or less of a security risk with your money? If you have any interesting thoughts, do share!
If you watched the Superbowl—or saw any related tweets about the Superbowl—you’ll know that a huge theme for the infamous ads was around cryptocurrencies.
A part of me feels as though trying to explain just exactly what the Metaverse is now is not dissimilar to explaining what the Internet was in the 1980s.
A very vague way to explain something that could end up being quite complex is to imagine the Metaverse as a virtual, augmented reality, or space on the Internet itself which could have its own digital or cyber economy.
A totally independent, virtual world where real things (cars, people, money) could exist. Including cryptocurrencies.
But for the Metaverse to exist, and be an augmented reality, transactions need to be completed through the blockchain so that users can have trust and faith that these transactions actually happen, and happen accurately. Alongside being un-hackable and über transparent.
So blockchains, and crypto, will end up playing a huge part in running the Metaverse. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg!
But what does this mean in relation to Money Minutes exactly? Well, let’s focus on just a banking perspective for today and keep this short.
JP Morgan & Chase comically made headlines last week when they set up their own bank in the Metaverse, including some sort of tiger.
Presumably, this was to create some PR around their report on ‘Opportunities in the Metaverse’ in which they’ve dubbed the augmented reality will create a $1 trillion market opportunity—because they will “infiltrate every sector in some way in the coming years”.
Virtual banks aren’t a totally new thing, either. Back in 2006 (!) a Dutch bank opened up a virtual branch to provide financial advice to its customers. However, due to a policy change this was shut down after a year.
16 years later, are there improvements to our day-to-day banking that could be made in the Metaverse? Can we elevate from phone banking, to web banking, to being unstoppable at cashing our cheques in a virtual bank?
Personal Finance Favourites
I’m excited to share a few deals I’ve noticed as well as some on-brand perks from digital banks. NB: I will only be sharing deals or offers I’d personally consider taking up myself.
As always, this is not financial advice and I am not liable for any decisions you make based on this email.
Santander—£140 cashback switching offer
Nationwide—£125 cashback switching offer
Starling current account—realtime spending notifications, insights into your spending habits, and you can set up in-app savings goals. Plus see below for spending abroad.
Monzo—if you follow my personal finance content you’ll know this will be a recurring winner, primarily because of the pots feature. This allows you to create sinking funds and budget smarter. Monzo also have realtime spending notifications, insights into your spending habits, and you can set up in-app savings goals. Plus see below for spending abroad.
Get Chip—another one on my content around automating your savings. Chip has a Payday Put Away feature which allows you to pay yourself first, and see the result of your graft with a smart projection tool.
As I’m going abroad a fair bit this year, I’ve been looking into the best debit cards to use without incurring foreign exchange fees. The best I’ve found are:
Starling—their current account boasts £0 fees for cash withdrawal, purchase fees and transaction fees.
Monzo—their current account boasts £0 fees for cash withdrawal (up to £200), purchase fees and transaction fees (up to £1,000). More info here.
Revolut—their current account boasts £0 fees for cash withdrawal (up to £200), purchase fees and transaction fees (up to £1,000).
That’s it for this month, folks. I hope you enjoyed this first issue—you’ll hear from me in another month!