I arrived in the beginning of the week to Osaka, where the largest banking event called Sibos was taking place. It is organized by SWIFT, a cooperative of 8000 banks in charge of most money flow in the world. 5000 suited bankers came from all around the world to attend hundreds of lectures on the latest developments in banking.
I was invited by Innotribe, the Sibos innovation group, to participate in a panel on “The Future of Money“. It was a great and illuminating session. The Innotribe folks are awesome, and I felt at home with people who understand innovation and how magic happens, but they are still a small minority in a sea of traditional bankers in suits who think the world is theirs for the taking. My feeling is that change will have to come from the outside and rock their world.
Then I moved to Tokyo, and I suddenly realized that while a natural storm was raging in NYC, a financial storm has started in Japan. Everyone has a bank or a brokerage. Everyone is dealing with finance. Sony has a bank, Mitsubishi is one of the largest banks, 7-Eleven has a bank, the largest retail brokers are Rakuten (the Japanese eBay) , GMO, SoftBank (which own Yahoo!) and check this out: the second largest broker in Japan is the number one porn company in Japan.
No wonder Japan is the country where Mrs. Watanabe trades actively in the global markets, where he corners the global currency market and where largest retail trading community in the world resides. Take the zero interest and zero growth in local stocks, add fast paced Internet companies which bundle Internet trading in everything they do, and you get mass market penetration never seen anywhere besides in global trading. This really is the future of money: nearly unlimited access to the global markets from your 7-Eleven and even your local porn shop.
Based on the social gaming trend in Japan, where the 2 biggest companies, Gree and DeNa, make Zynga look bad, and the fact that they are going global, I believe the Japanese miracle might hit more countries .