5 Secrets to Wooing and Keeping Generation Z’s Banking Business

By Staff Writer on July 20, 2015
ChannelNet article image-Gen z-banking

When it comes to Gen Z, which includes pretty much everyone up to about the age of 20, what can banks learn from youth fashions, fast-casual restaurants, music downloads or movie tickets? Not much. Gen Z doesn’t want the same banking or financial relationships that they have with their lifestyle brands.

While there has been much written about this up-and-coming generation, the most multicultural in American history, we decided to get deeper insights on their banking habits by talking to three members of Generation Z, all interns at ChannelNet. When it comes to how they choose a bank and what sort of user experience they want from financial institutions, they spoke with unanimity.

One thing is clear. Banks have an edge that popular culture brands don’t have — parents. All of them bank where their parents bank. They made it clear that they have no loyalty and it is the banks’ responsibility to keep their business. So how do banks keep and grow Gen Z’s business?

1)     Remove the Hurdles

Rett Abner, a senior economics major at the University of North Florida, said banks need to make it easier to do business. “Removing the hurdles that are involved in the financial industry is a big thing.” He said it took him and his dad more than an hour to open an account at the bank where his family has done business for years. “We were the first ones in the bank on a Saturday morning,” he said, noting that the bank was not at all busy. “People in our generation are really about ease of access, not just online, but everywhere,” he said.

Claire Slaughter, a senior at Kalamazoo College, finds it frustrating to go to the branch for her personal account information. She feels banks should work to make the branch visit on par with the online experience. She doesn’t want to have to go to the bank for her own personal information.

2)     Mobility Is Key

“I manage pretty much everything off of the mobile app for my bank. Really, everything I need or most of the stuff I need is on that app,” said Andrew Han, a junior studying digital media design at the University of Michigan. “The most useful thing, really, is the check deposit functionality on the app. I feel like I have a really good connection with my bank just because of the service I get from this app and the quick, easy, useful things I can access,” he added.

Han said he gets checks as gifts as well as checks from tuition grants and part-time work, and he uses the app to deposit them. “It saves you a trip to the bank. It is a lot more efficient,” he said.

Abner said he uses a mobile app for his deposits, too. He also gets a lot of paper checks, often at 2 a.m. after working on lighting crews for performances. “I don’t really go to ATMs that late at night because it is sketchy. The app really helps me,” he said.

3.   Unless You Have a Good Cause, Forget Social Media

These three said they might follow lifestyle brands they care about on social media, but they aren’t very interested in following financial institutions that way.

Slaughter explained that she might follow “brands that I care about on an emotional level, like my clothing brands or even certain food companies like Whole Foods. When I’m thinking about my bank, all I think about with them, really, is just conducting business.”

Ironically, Abner follows a credit union on social media even though he banks elsewhere. He says he follows the credit union on Twitter because they sponsor fun events related to a soccer team he supports. “They do a lot of events that help the community. For them, social media is a little more important. I see a little more of that relationship aspect with a credit union than with large banks.”

4)     Fee-Free Services Set the Bar

All three said they love Venmo, an app that allows them to transfer money to other people’s accounts, even if the two have accounts at different banks. And it’s fee free.

“Venmo has changed my life this past year in college. I can transfer money to Andrew right now with two clicks of a button on my phone,” Slaughter said. “I live in a house with roommates, and every month I can send my share to the person who pays our entire water bill. It goes directly from my bank into her bank account. I don’t even carry cash anymore because that’s how I transfer money to other people,” she said.

Han said Venmo is among the most useful apps he knows. “If you go out with a couple of friends to eat and one friend buys for you because you didn’t have any cash, maybe you didn’t have your wallet with you, you can just Venmo them with your phone, $10.96 or something. It’s just very, very easy and user friendly.”

5)    Focus on Usability

Our resident Generation Z members all say they mostly just want their financial institutions to be easy to deal with, and that same idea holds true even with brands they want more connection with. The user experience must be clean and easy — pretty is just a nice-to-have. Websites need to be simple to navigate so that people can find what they want quickly.

“I want to be able to find and digest what I’m looking for. A lot of websites that I go to, it’s hard to find what I’m looking for unless I go through multiple steps to get there,” Abner said. “I have to get to one page, get to the next page to get to the next page. That for me tends to lead to faster drop off, and I’m less likely to continue on that site because I’m not very brand loyal on a lot of things,” he said. “I’m more about utility and utilitarian value versus having something that’s necessarily pretty.”

While they aren’t really interested in having a personal relationship with a bank, they said they plan to stay a customer until the bank gives them a reason to leave. Mostly, they view the relationship as transactional and expect nothing more or less than a smooth, easy and efficient process.

They want absolute ease of use, anywhere, anytime and on any device. They rarely go into a branch, and when they do, they are frustrated by how long it takes to get anything done. They use their phones to cash checks, transfer funds and check balances.

In the end, these three want their banks to provide the kind of user experience that is so easy and accessible that it is barely noticed at all. Enable Generation Z to do their banking anywhere, any time with no hassle, and you may just have them for life.

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