My big ambition in this column is to invent (or, at the very least, mention) an idea so avant-garde and futuristic that when it transforms the world people will gather on the streets saying: “I should have taken notice of that column by Peter Le Beau” or “I’ve made my fortune thanks to Peter Le Beau’s fabulous prescience in his regular Health Insurance column”.
I want to tell you about an idea that will be the cornerstone of a $1bn industry in 2005, Instant Messaging. Instant Messaging isn’t text, which my wife regularly uses in the middle of Arsenal matches to tell me the dishwasher has broken. And it’s not e-mail either, which has ruined the careers of half the world’s comedians. It is a free service that allows anybody with internet access to converse in real-time, regardless of their service provider, and provides encryption algorithms for ensuring the safety and confidentiality of messages between financial organisations.
There are issues to be confronted – a device known as a “trusted partner” enables you to verify the bona fides of people submitting information and strong firewalls have been designed to keep out hackers. It also provides a trail for auditors to check. It is possible to trade graphics, photographs and legal documents over instant messaging systems.
It seems a very useful tool for intermediaries, and could be of value in sharing a whole range of sensitive or important financial information that is needed urgently.
If you think I’m describing e-mail then you’ve never waited for hours for information to arrive, and if it was important information that you needed at your fingertips instant messaging sounds like the ideal solution.
As far as I am aware it is not yet legal to carry out two-way transactions by instant messaging but you can easily see how it could be used to give comparative life quotes, for example. In the US, where it originated, there are no aliases used and all passwords are sanctioned by an authorised system administrator, and users can only access the network from designated computers.
A useful and interesting extra piece of communications technology, and if it does transform your life or your business please remember you heard it here first!
– Peter Le Beau is the managing director of Le Beau Visage, a financial services marketing consultancy. He is also a consultant for Swiss Re Life & Health.