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Anders Sörman-Nilsson on the future of finance

Idealog digital editor Ben Mack chats with futurist Anders Sörman-Nilsson about the future of how we pay for things - and what that could mean for our society.

The future of payments is here – or at least a future where cash, and even credit cards, are things of the past. And surprise, surprise: there’s data to back up such claims.

 According to the latest YouGov survey, commissioned by Visa, almost two-thirds (65 percent) of Kiwis say they’re likely to try out new ways of paying for goods and services. This growing appetite includes connected devices, with the same survey indicating the number of people willing to use an Internet of Things device, such as a car or fridge, to make payments has grown from 12 percent in September 2016 to 30 percent today.

The future of payments was the subject of a talk by futurist Anders Sörman-Nilsson in Auckland last month. Much of his talk focused on what the implications of technology might be - and how it could potentially improve our lives.

Marty Kerr, Visa’s country manager for New Zealand and the South Pacific, says whilst Visa doesn’t see the plastic credit cards disappearing any time soon, the rise in the number of people comfortable with the thought of new payment methods, such as connected devices, shows New Zealanders are ready to embrace the future of commerce. “The world of commerce continues to change at a frantic pace and the role of payments is evolving at equal speed, becoming increasingly invisible,” he says. “The results tell us Kiwi consumers are driving this shift by experimenting with new ways to pay for the things they need, want or enjoy. Almost half of those surveyed said the ability to leave the house with nothing more than their phone would make life easier, highlighting a keen desire for convenience and simplicity.”

 Almost 80 percent of people surveyed said they would use their mobile for everyday purchases. A further 25 percent were likely to use a wearable device such as a smart watch. “The payments industry is at an inflection point: just like the music industry, where digital platforms have given consumers a simpler and better way to access their favourite music, we’re evolving to find simpler and better ways for consumers to pay,” says Kerr.

Yet in spite of this openness to new technologies, Kiwis are still somewhat skeptical about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) as a means of payment; 36 percent of the people surveyed said they understood AI is the (likely) future, but don’t yet feel ready for it. “When it comes to new forms of commerce, there are many great innovations coming through and we’re only starting to scratch the surface in terms of the role AI can and will play in the future,” says Kerr. “When we look at the attitudes of 18 – 35 year olds, who are going to be among the biggest users of these new technologies, it’s promising to see 29 percent say they’re ready or somewhat ready for the opportunities AI can bring. It’s going to be interesting to see that figure increase over time as consumers continue to influence technology development to meet their changing needs.”