Innovators: Money and Finance

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For more than a century the heart of the financial world was a physical place called Wall Street, where slips of paper littered the floors and shouted bids to buy and sell filled the overheated air. And the most famous repository of wealth was Fort Knox, where soldiers guarded mounds of gold bars deep inside Kentucky's rolling hill country.Wall Street and Fort Knox are still there, of course, but their mystique is fading fast. Not even James Bond's nemesis Auric Goldfinger would try to rob the fort anymore; bullion is in a two-decade-long slump. Nowadays, real money doesn't glitter or clink. It blinks across the world's computer screens. More wealth is created—or destroyed—in an instant than J.P. Morgan could have comprehended. Net-savvy investors are reaping the rewards and assuming the risks of controlling their financial destiny.In this month's installment of our series on Innovators, you'll meet out-of-the-box thinkers building a new financial order that empowers individuals. They include a former medical student who's bringing venture capital to the masses, a maverick who's creating an automated stock exchange and a tech maven who thinks you should carry smart cards instead of currency. The society these folks are fashioning may be cashless, but it will be rich beyond Goldfinger's fantasies.