Web And Flow

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Nancy Heslin   Forbes Monaco

Web And Flow

Alexander Vik.

Article first published in Forbes Monaco September 2022.

How Monaco resident Alexander Vik is banking on merging the traditional, digital ans crypto worlds. A one-step CeFi and DeFi shop in the palm of your hand.

When Alexander Vik tells me that people divorce more often than they change banks, I raise an eyebrow. Having recently launched his financial super app, Fluid, the Monaco resident has done his market research. In 2017, the average marriage in the U.S. lasted 8 years before ending in divorce while an American survey conducted for Bankrate and MONEY showed a typical adult used the same primary checking account for 16 years—26% kept their account for 20 plus years. The J.D. Power U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study reported that only 4% of consumers switched primary banks in 2018. The reluctance to change banks historically has been linked to hassle, fear of something going wrong or just being plain lazy, but these days, as Forbes senior contributor Ron Shevlin put it “easy money movement has eliminated the need for consumers to close out accounts.”

Easy money movement is the Fluid app’s bullseye. “The idea is to allow money to be moved seamlessly from the real world to a digital format on the blockchain and back—instantly, globally and in your control,” Alexander Vik explains.

Called “The Most Interesting Man in the World” by Forbes in 2014, Vik built two billion-dollar companies with a keen eye for fintech and data protection and privacy. (This in addition to his award-winning vineyard in Chile, and acclaimed hotels in Uruguay, Chile and Milan).

He co-founded Protegrity, a world-class data protection and privacy company in 2003 and with Fluid, Vik is foraying into modernizing the use of money. At the time he was developing his ideas on how to undertake this he met and joined forces with CEO and founder Robert Sharratt. A year later, the Fluid app—available as a Web App and as a Mobile App—came to light.

Fluid Finance SA is the first company in Switzerland to be officially capitalized in ETH, its equity tokenized and traded on chain. Vik plans to offer the app and all its capabilities in a DAO, white-labeled to any company giving them the ability to present and use the app as their own.
It is permissionless, with API’s that any company can use to connect. Like any social network, the more people that use the Fluid app the more value it gives all its users. The only requirement is to follow the protocol.

Three rails are bridged by Fluid—Fluid account messaging digital cash, on chain Web3 wallet and traditional fintech bank accounts, with instant drag and drop capability among them.

Available globally, a Fluid account can be opened with an email address or a mobile phone number. The Fluid account holds Digital Cash; DUSD, DEUR, DCHF, DGBP (and soon any other tradeable currency) which can be sent for free and instantaneously to any other Fluid account. Digital Cash can also be sent to anyone with a blockchain address and a Web3 wallet. When one Fluid equity token is purchased, a holder receives a “Wild Card”—a debit card on the Mastercard network—that can be used to spend Fluid account money worldwide.

With the swipe of a finger, a user can exchange Digital Cash for traditional money and send it to anyone who has a bank account. “You don’t need permission from anyone,” Vik says. “Sending money is like sending a text message.” The real money stays safely in the regulated bank accounts until redeemed by the holder of the Digital Cash. With another swipe of a finger the user can do FX transactions 24/7 at the best rates. Fluid is integrating Protegrity’s technology to offer the best data security possible.

For the Swedish-born Norwegian, Digital Cash or DUSD is “real money on chain.” It can be used to purchase digital assets including cryptocurrencies like Ether and Bitcoin, NFTs, exchanged for world currencies or spent with the Wild Card. “Digital Cash lives in two worlds—on chain in a Web3 wallet and in Fluid,” he explains. Using a track pad or mouse users can instantly drag currency from their Fluid bank account to mint and instantly redeem DUSD, as well as drag DUSD from their Web3 wallet to their Fluid account or traditional bank account. It is easier to have Digital Cash be the counterparty to any cryptocurrency trade. “With your ‘real money on chain’ Fluid obviates the need for stablecoins, thereby making these transactions easier. When you sell a crypto asset the funds from the sale instantly appear in your account.”

The two-time captain of the Harvard golf team remarks, “Digital Cash can only be minted if there is real money backing it up in your traditional Fluid bank account or the Fluid Treasury. The amount of Digital Cash and assets backing Digital Cash is published live 24/7 on chain, with a delay, and instantly verifiable by anyone and recorded forever using the power of the blockchain. Today the USD is the currency used in cryptocurrency transactions, but the Fluid app allows the digital form of any currency to be minted and used in transactions.”

Fluid’s technology eliminates the need for either a crypto exchange to buy or sell on chain or a traditional bank. The transactions can be done inside the app and/or with a Web3 wallet. “Fluid is the least expensive, fastest and best On/ Off ramp for crypto,” says Vik. “It means you can freely hold your assets including Digital Cash and can send them or trade them wherever you wish 24/7.

On the traditional side, Fluid provides a full- feature and secure bank account connectable to the Web3 wallet and connected to all of the app’s functionality. With a launch in Europe, Switzerland, and the U.K. (the U.S. is slated for fall 2022), the account can be opened in three minutes with an email/phone number, selfie, utility bill and copy of your passport (in the U.S. with just a social security number).

The use cases for Fluid’s app will change from country to country. The traditional banking system works better in some jurisdictions than in others. Crypto is utilized differently depending on the jurisdiction. In some areas the banking system is inaccessible to many, or dysfunctional, making it difficult to transact or save money, which can be costly. The use of Fluid for remittances (in 2020 a $702 billion market) promises dramatic reductions in the cost to workers and their families, both when money is sent and when it is received.

“We have a number of users in Nigeria and Kenya, where, like in many parts of Africa, many financial transactions are done on the phone,” Vik reveals. “We are now working on connecting some of those networks to Fluid to provide users instant global capabilities as easily as they use the phone. So, a Kenyan laborer working in the Emirates who does not have a bank account can send money back home easily and inexpensively.”

Vik see the blockchain and its applications— “the internet of money”—as a fundamentally positive innovation in the world of technology. “Banks understand blockchain is the future, but with the recent collapse of some blockchain companies many are cautious about anything to do with crypto. It is the ying and yang.”

In merging the new world of blockchain and crypto with the real world and messaging, and in the midst of the crypto market collapse, 40 team members, many working remotely worldwide have spent the two months since Fluid’s launch to “sharpen” the app and get it “tip top” based on feedback from the community of about 10,000 users who have downloaded the app. The company promised to introduce more capabilities for the user, such being able to mint the digital representation of any asset—physical or digital, thereby tokenizing it so it can be traded 24/7.

“In ancient times, we bartered cattle and then metal gold. Then, central banks printed paper for convenience purposes to represent gold in safes. Digital representation of real money, stays in bank accounts and is protected. This makes it easy to send money to anyone, to trade in crypto assets and you can go to Starbucks in the morning and pay for your coffee,” says Vik.

How interesting is that. And no divorce necessary.

Whats Up With Super Apps?

"Super apps are ecosystems. They’re enclosed experiences that make it easy to accomplish a wide variety of tasks—as long as the tasks occur within the walled garden. To date, super apps don’t really exist in the US—but they’re dominant in China. The super app term is often misused in the US because the technical aspects of a super app are misunderstood. Super apps rely on mini programs—lightweight apps tha run inside another app. They don’t need to be downloaded or upgraded through app stores. They make it possible for one app to perform the service of many apps.

US consumers’ growing time spent with mobile and their overwhelming choice of products and providers are driving demand for rebundling in financial services. Super apps are emerging as the solution to meet this demand and improve the digital customer experience. Banks must start deciding today how to engage in the super apps trend to stay relevant to consumers.”

Ron Shevlin, senior contributor Forbes.

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Nancy Heslin   Forbes Monaco

Nancy Heslin is an established journalist and lifestyle writer. She has been the Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Monaco magazine (bimonthly in English) , since the magazine's 2nd issue . Launched in November 2018, Forbes Monaco is part of the Forbes family, with its 7 million readers and 71 million monthly website visitors worldwide.