What’s in a name?
Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y or #Millennials. I am sure you are all used to hearing these names thrown around when describing our customer base - even more important, your customer base. I have to start by saying, I am not the expert on the generational gaps and age groups and/or where exactly I fall into this chronological order. So let’s take a step back and go beyond Wikipedia for some information. By the way, isn’t it frustrating that Wikipedia can’t just be a reliable source for everything? I mean, it’s all there with one click. Anyway, I digress…
In my online research of generational gaps and names, I thought it best to use a career planning website as reference to the world of generational profiling. So CareerPlanner.com says that I (just turned 40) fall squarely in the Generation X category but an outside link to the Generation Y crowd. In case you are keeping score at home, my 5 children all fall within the Generation Z category (yet to give given an official nickname). I like that idea as I can hold onto my youth and use the excuse for being tied to my cell phone and newly purchased Apple watch as being a “Millennial”. But I am way too “old school” to want to be a Generation Y-not guy, so no thanks. Yet my generation was labeled the lazy slackers, so there really isn’t a win/win in this generation game. I take huge exception to being labeled “lazy”, but again, probably an argument for another time. Not to mention, the Gen Y group (or Millennials) are a fickle bunch. That’s why I like to call them Gen Y-not. Why not now? Why isn’t that online? Why do I have to call and talk to someone? Why is that not available or in an app? WHY NOT?
In the end, it’s simple: two generations make up the bulk of your buying audience. The wealth in this country is shifting from the boomers to Generation X. The Gen Y-nots are at the forefront, pushing you for better technology. Don’t think the irony is lost on me that my lazy Gen X’ers are building this technology for the Y-nots. The point is, as a financial institution, you are caught in a cross roads of building towards that next generational trend. I read on Twitter everyday about statistics for what millennials need, want, and use. While I understand the need to serve the 20 year – 40 year old base, I am overwhelmed with the statistics around “What Millennials are thinking”. I don’t have to look far because it’s all over social media. Better yet, what don’t they want? Why not have my cake and eat it too? Don’t get me wrong, I love the technology that has come out of this push. If you aren’t testing the waters as a leader of an FI, you are missing out. The availability of information and the willingness to consume it are at an all-time high. Instant notification, instant payment, instant deposit; show me how I am spending my money and how I can save and invest. Give me that choice and that power! What can I say, I use all of it. That’s my Gen Y side.
But here comes the old school (Gen X) me. In your race for new tech, don’t lose your core foundation or principles chasing the magic bullet for this generations’ need to have it now, on multiple devices, and without needing to interact with you or anyone. Because what’s next?
There is always going to be something better, easier to use, with better access to the information you want. Doesn’t that sound like a good commercial? Let’s be real, it’s likely when a college student or young adult overdraws their account, loses a checkbook, or needs their first loan, they are probably walking into that branch they never visit to ask for help and that is where the old fashion “personal touch” will make a difference.
Let me close by saying that I love new technology. I get the newest phone, want the latest gadget, and still geek out on reading about what is coming next. I love fintech. When it comes to my financial institution, I want a great online banking experience (both online and my devices), I want remote deposit capture, and I want to know if I keep my money with them that they make it easy to borrow money. But I also want to know that they are there for me when I need them.
Even though I rarely go into my branch, I know the CEO of my financial institution and the people that work there. Their online banking didn’t sit well with me until a recent update were I saw improvements greater than my previous FI. After opening my account last year, I asked if their online and mobile banking was going to change. Even though the updates fit my need as a customer, I still wasn’t going to research and shop competing FI’s because they have yet to create an Apple Watch app (If my bank is reading, and you know who you are, I wouldn’t mind if you did!). There is more to my decision about where I bank than the coolest new technology. At the end of the day, the technology is what makes our experience with the financial institution more pleasurable and easier to use. The self-service factor is beyond convenient. At the core of all of this are the leaders of these FI’s that make the decisions to buy or build these products and stand behind them and service the customer with or through them. Without those people, you lose the human touch and personal element that banks and credit unions were founded on.
So yes, the Millennials and the Gen X crowd will keep asking “why not” when it comes to you having the next technology, but don’t let that push you away from owning the most important element the financial instruction has to offer: the relationship with that customer. There isn’t a price tag on that or a technology that can replace it.