Gen Z is keeping me up at night. As a mother of two Gen Z kids, I sometimes find myself awake at night ruminating about my children being in a position to make wise use of their income and having the discipline and diligence to save for their future. As a marketer, I sometimes find myself staring at the ceiling thinking about how the financial services industry needs to evolve—and quickly—to service what will soon be a generation with up to $60 trillion in spending power.
Now, I’m not the only person (with or without kids) for whom financial concerns can be a middle-of-the-night stressor. We’re pushing through a period right now filled with mixed signals on the economy, where we have a combination of historically low unemployment, somewhat stubborn inflation, and a stock market that is keeping everyone on their toes. In the midst of that, the older part of Gen Z is coming into its first stages of independence, and there needs to be a growing focus on the impact they’ll have on financial services companies for many years to come.
What’s interesting about this generation is the seeming number of contradictions in how they approach the world and live in it. For example:
• They demonstrate a pretty high financial literacy in some ways. In one survey, 44% reported using a credit monitoring service to help improve their credit score. And on the other hand, they readily admit that they routinely spend above their income.
• They live their lives within social media, confidently buying products through platforms like TikTok without batting an eye but have more confidence in keeping their money at legacy, established financial institutions than fintech startups.
• They also value highly personalized experiences and are looking for high-touch help around topics, like savings and investing, to help them build their financial independence. I can attest to that within my own family, where my daughter three years into her career has been using her work’s retirement plans and individual fintech apps to help with her savings but is now looking to gain more confident planning through engaging a personal financial advisor.
The financial services industry isn’t totally ready to service the needs of this generation. And if companies don’t start thinking about it now, they’re going to lose the opportunity to build relationships with people who have demonstrated great brand loyalty to date. So, what are some key imperatives in order to bring Gen Z into the fold?
• Lean into helpful digital tools and experiences. This is a bit of a no-brainer, but when thinking about a generation that is as steeped in digital as Gen Z, there is no room for a subpar digital experience. And you know what? Your legacy systems are subpar to them. Specifically, they want access to tools like automated financial guidance and virtual assistants to help them manage their money. If your business isn’t already investing significantly here, it’s time to start before Gen Z starts earning paychecks in earnest.
• Personalization needs to be more than someone’s name. Each engagement needs to feel rich, tailored and highly curated for them. For those of you who have been playing in the digital space as long as I have, remember the dream of true 1-to-1 marketing? Here’s the generation that will expect that, especially for something as personal as their money. And that’s because you also need to …
• Demonstrate that you are helping them get to their goals. Truly cast yourself in the role of guide, sherpa, guru—whatever word you choose—whose sole focus is helping them save and earn. That means moving beyond giving them a slate of options of products and instead showing them which one is right for them—and truly doing it from the standpoint of helping them grow and protect their wealth, paying off on their desire for stability.
If you work in financial services and embrace the above, you’ll not only help your Gen Z customers, but you’ll also save yourself from many sleepless nights worrying about them.
This article was originally published by Forbes.
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