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What Wall Street Will Look Like in 50 Years

By Morgan Housel - Apr 25, 2013 at 9:40AM

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David Cowen on financial history.

Fifty years ago, Goldman Sachs (GS 0.30%) was a partnership, most stock transactions occurred by face-to-face contact, and no one had ever heard of a credit default swap.

Wall Street changes, fast.

What will it look like 50 years from now?

That's anyone's guess, but I asked David Cowen, CEO of the Museum of American Finance and a financial historian, what he thought. Here's what he had to say (transcript follows):

Morgan Housel: As a historian who focuses on the past, what do you think Wall Street will look like, let's say, 50 years from now?

David Cowen: So, Morgan, you're asking me about my crystal ball and, as you allude to first, financial historians and economic historians look backwards first. There's a couple of sweeping trends: we alluded to one much earlier, which was the shift in paradigm to Asia, but I think the second one is the whole concept of Wall Street as a physical location. Right, it starts here: 1792 is one of the inaugural events, the Buttonwood Tree, and people have to come together at a physical space or add exchanges, and what we're seeing now is Wall Street is virtual. It's everywhere, and so the role of having to come to an actual physical place will be entirely, I believe, diminished, as we look forward.

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