Credit Union Science Fiction

Forget next year’s media budget or your five-year strategy. Let’s gaze deeper into that CU crystal ball than we ever have before.

What’s the distant future of finance? What are credit unions going to be doing 25, 50, or 100 years from now?

Virtual CUs
Correct me if this has already happened, but is there a totally branchless, totally online “virtual” CU out there? There are a few virtual banks doing business, but as far as I can tell, CUs are still building more branches than they’re tearing down. Younger people are already perfectly comfortable doing business with people they’ve never met, and in the future more and more will prefer it. Imagine the savings in operations costs…

A new virtual CU wouldn’t surprise me, but it’ll be interesting to see if and when an existing “bricks and mortar” CU closes its last branch and goes entirely online.

Online Common Bond
There are already thousands of online communities with enough members and resources to form their own CU if they wanted. Someday, we’ll see virtual CUs built by and for these communities.

For example, imagine a CU built around an online gaming community. It could offer compelling features to assist members with “in-game” transactions — keeping track of your “gold” (in-game currency) balance right along with your dollars, and offering easy conversion back and forth. Maybe even a single sign-on for you and your character.

There are thriving online communities built around every interest — how could a custom CU serve a huge global group of motorcycle enthusiasts, or fans of Thai cooking?

The End of Paper
One day, one brave CU will declare an end to all this silly business with scraps of dead trees. No more checks, no more vast halls of dusty paper archives, no more filing cabinets. Bet you can’t wait.

Global Currency
In every science fiction story, the characters seem to use “Credits” or “Stars” instead of “Dollars” and “Euros.” At some point in the future, will we see one world currency? How will this affect CUs?

Interplanetary Finance
Can you get a mortgage for a nice little retirement dome on Mars? How will a colony on Pluto keep track of their finances when the transmission time to get a signal to Earth is 4.5 hours? Perhaps distant colonies or explorers could bring a secured “CU in a Box” with them to handle finances, which would reconcile with the CU back on Earth when they return.

Intrinsic Value
When humanity is scattered far enough, and perhaps isn’t even entirely human, will scraps of funny paper or electrons in computer memory still have any value? Perhaps there will be a return to gold, platinum, radioactive isotopes, or another medium of exchange — something with a certain intrinsic value.

Alien Finance
When the aliens finally land, will they need credit unions? Do creatures from the stars need flying saucer loans? Will you be able to find a way to open an account for a wealthy sentient polyp with no drivers license?

Extended Longevity
When we finally conquer aging, how will this affect finance? Obviously, retirement planning will be entirely different when people can reasonably expect to live for 800 years. How might you structure something like a 200 year mortgage?

[Author’s note: This is a fun topic I’d like to return to a few more times. If you have feedback or suggestions, email me at [email protected].]

Brian Wringer

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