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How can financial services brands better connect with the disadvantaged, digital generation?

As a Millennial working for an agency that only works with financial services companies, I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in numerous strategy conversations with our clients. I’ve been on the inside, so to speak and also on the outside as a customer of financial companies in my day-to-day life.

My overall impression is that the industry doesn’t value, or understand my generation. Some are trying to connect, but most are looking short-term, or thinking about product, rather than me.  Here’s why I think that’s a mistake.

We’re the future

Millennials are an increasingly important audience for banking and financial services brands and they present a new and exciting challenge for a traditionally conservative industry.

Our passage into adulthood happened in times of recession and market volatility, which means that members of Gen Y have had difficult financial beginnings – in fact around 70% of us believe that we have to face more financial difficulties than our parents did at the same age. Click here to find out more.

Millennials have developed a radically different attitude toward material wealth, property ownership and financial investment, which has forced many marketers to rethink their strategies. Millennials increasingly mistrust traditional banking institutions and are in no rush to plan our financial futures. This leads us to ask how can financial services brands connect with Millennials?


Millennials defying stereotypes

Millennials, also called Generation Y, were born between 1980 and 2000 and have grown up in a fast-paced, dynamic environment. As the first generation raised with the Internet, we have known only rapid change and technology is innate and omnipresent for us.

This has led to three core perceptions being developed about Millennials, mainly arising from our use of technology; that we are zappers, narcissistic and individualistic. These stereotypes are unfair, but do come from our chosen approach to communicating; using multiple digital channels and having a preference for sharing opinions and experiences with the world.

Too many channels

The proliferation of social and other channels means that brands face a constant challenge to understand which is the new channel of choice for Gen Y. Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are just 5 of the mainstream platforms used everyday by my generation.

Brands need to better understand the drivers for using these apps, as well as how they’re used in order to build strategies and content that connects.

Too little time

Millennials are also bombarded by content, so to cut through, peer recommendations and shared content is often seen as the most valuable, undermining the sense that we are individualistic. However, we are also keen to personalise our own experiences and with other brands doing just that, financial brands will need to follow suit.

Top 5 ways to engage with Millennials

Fin services brands must adapt if they hope to connect with Gen Y.  They may not realise it, but they are in a unique position to engage with this audience. Many of them have the advantage of being essential – everyone needs a bank account or car insurance – which means that they provide solutions to real problems. It also gives them the opportunity of producing content that provides answers to real issues.

The challenge for the banking and financial services brands is not only to identify which messages will engage this distrustful audience, but also to find the best way to connect with us. Around 70% of Millennials say that they’d rather have an appointment at the dentist than listen to what banks have to say – there is some work to do!

So how should Fin Services firms not only get in front of Millennials, but engage them in a conversation that results in them becoming a customer?


Here are our top 5 strategies for engaging Gen Y:

1. Talk to them where they spend their time – through digital channels
As Millennials want to access relevant information wherever and whenever suits them, it’s fundamental you put in place an integrated plan that addresses our needs. Millennials are in constant motion. Some are exploring the world, others are working in cities and spending quite a time in public transport … and our mobiles are always nearby!Therefore, you must understand which channels are the best environments in which we consume content and plan your promotions to be most effective in those environments.

The British start-up Mondo perceived digital natives’ needs and launched the first bank only accessible on mobile. All features and marketing components are designed to appeal to Gen Y. They’ve based their entire business strategy according to Millennial’s expectations, meaning openness and transparency. Their slogan is simple and effective: ‘Finally, a bank as smart as your phone’.

2. Engage them with relevant, impactful content
It’s necessary to engage Gen Y by being a reliable source of information. Marketers in the financial services industry have a real opportunity to help us understand exactly how to manage our finances and create wealth. Content marketing can be an efficient way for financial experts to share content or videos with practical tutorials, for instance ‘How to repay debts and save for future’. Commonwealth Bank recently published an article explaining Self Managed Super to Gen Y – see the full article here. They are trying to engage us by simplifying complicated financial terms and by being active on social media.

3. Be authentic
You must address us with more authentic messages to establish a relationship of trust. Indeed, Millennials are hungry for financial information. Studies show that money matters rank highest of our current concerns and that 45% of us are looking for education and advice to help deal with our financial situations. Study released by Patrick Hourihan, Director of Research EMEA, Yahoo EMEA.

4. Be attractive
Creating enthusiasm for financial services is not an easy task. Marketers need to think ‘authentic’. For example, Gen Y loves being part of events (sports, music) and we are more accessible. Even if we’re spending a huge time on our mobile, computers, watching Game of Thrones, we also like to go out, which is an opportunity for brands. During those events, our main motivations are the topics, personalities that bring the event to life, music, and entertainment. Being shackled to our mobile is not a bad thing here, as we will relate the information and create content on social media about the event, hence about the brand itself.

Kinetic was originally a super fund for the recruitment industry, which transformed into a progressive industry fund that exists only to benefit their members. In 2014,  they unveiled an advertising campaign focused on addressing Millennials’ apathy towards superannuation. By integrating a multi-channel marketing strategy, Kinetic broke the codes of traditional advertising used by financial institutions. Using a warehouse to throw paint dust at blank canvas (and typical Millennials) against buoyant music, Kinetic won the sympathy and trust of Millennials to ‘get their super moving’.

‘We’re encouraging people to bring the same energy they have for their life and career, to their super’ said Kinetic Super’s Marketing Manager of the campaign.

5. Demonstrate social responsibility and a commitment to a better world
We see ourself as global citizens who have a responsibility to make the world better. For instance, some of us are buying products only because it supports a cause. We’re also keen to use recyclable products, help the society in many different ways and find meaningful work. To really connect with us, you may want to consider that we’re not all about money…issues matter too.

Key facts
  • We will be the largest generation since the Baby Boomers: there are 2 billion Millennials worldwide.
  • 70% of us wish we had more knowledge and skills when it comes to banking and other financial matters, which means that we admit our need for banking education.
  • Over 70% of Millennials said we would be more excited about a new offering in financial services from Google, Amazon, Apple, Paypal, or Square than from our own nations’ bank.
  • 74% of us say mobile banking is important – Millennials are looking to financial technology startups to change the face of the banking industry moving directly to mobile apps. This applies for our financial services needs of: payments, investments, remittances, crowdfunding, consumer banking, and lending.

To get to know the Millennials, I found this infographic useful: ‘Millennials: Coming of age’.


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