Banking on Millennials.

Millenial2About eight years ago, I was part of a team at Razorfish that was hired to develop a banking website specifically designed to acquire new customers from the emerging Gen Y market. The large national bank developed a tool on this site that would enable users to move funds from savings to checking with a swift swipe of the mouse (this was pre-mobile banking, pre-iPhone). I would have to assume that they were very successful in attracting these younger customers since both the tool and site are still being utilized so many years later. And as you probably guessed, with the proliferation of smart phones, this banking tool is now available as an app.

I was reminded of that work when I read a recently released study from the Cassandra Report that said that 6 in 10 Gen Y consumers think big banks aren’t designed to serve their needs.

Specifically, banks are failing to cater to the three major traits of Gen Y:

1) The desire for instant gratification

2) The expectation for thoughtful personalization

3)The pursuit of digital education resources

Personally, I think the options for online banking today are great. But then again, I’m a Gen X’er that still remembers the Friday evenings I spent waiting in long lines to deposit paychecks in order to avoid penalties on checks that I had “floated.” I am not from the on-demand generation so I was generally surprised when someone at the bank showed me even a vague look of recognition when I approached the counter. And I was cool with that.

After reading the Cassandra report I thought it would be interesting to see what consumers were saying about the existing banking apps. Did it mirror the dissatisfaction reported by Cassandra? The Wells Fargo mobile app received a whopping 2 star rating out of 5 from the 191 online reviews. “Worst Bank App Ever.” “No Touch ID support. I have social apps that have Touch ID support for cripes sake.” “This app is still web based and doesn’t take into account the needs of mobile users.” “I have to copy my password from Safari and paste it in the password field. I should just be able to use Touch ID.” You get the idea.

When I looked at the PNC mobile banking app it was more of the same, a 2 star rating with nearly identical comments. And while I can’t be sure if any of these reviews were written by Gen Y consumers, they surely reflect the traits of this generation. They want personalization and mobility, and they want it now.

In The 2015 Razorfish Digital Dopamine report the agency reported that marketers were not drawing enough distinctions between Gen X and Millennials. That may be true. While Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are generally responsible for the birth of the digital revolution (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Al Gore, etc.), their expectations for what it can provide, believe it or not, may be somewhat limited based on the analog world that they spent a good part of their lives navigating.

In the Digital Dopamine report Millennials said that mobile apps are particularly important to them when it comes to financial services. The importance of the financial mobile apps was rated the highest and exceeded every single category including food and beverage, travel/hospitality, automotive and apparel for this generation.

So there is plenty of room to improve online banking. Consumers are looking for specialized resources and personal interactions from banks that can help empower them financially. And most likely, this improvement is going to come from the digital generation that is currently blasting the current experiences. The bar has been set high in other industries that deliver seamless digital experiences. Time for the banks to catch up with tools that cater to goal-oriented, on-demand youth. There you go banks, keep hiring those Millennials and get it done!