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Matt Cunard, Senior Digital Marketer, VGM Forbin  

Full disclosure: I’m a Millennial. At the time of writing this, I’m 26 with both student loans and a loan on a vehicle I recently purchased. I use a credit card (paid off in full each month), make good use of my checking and savings accounts and have an IRA outside of work.  

My parents instilled good financial habits in me, with lessons always ending with “We don’t want you to make the same mistakes we did.” But I, and millions of Millennials just like me, need help. We’ve lived in debt since before we were out of college. In a recent Bank of America survey of how Millennials feel about managing money, 27 percent of us said we were “anxious,” 22 percent said “overwhelmed” and 13 percent of us said we’re flat out “scared.”  

This means banks now have a lot of opportunities in their lap. However, you won’t connect with us the same way you did with our parents and grandparents. “Service with a smile” and a trendy advertising campaign will not get us in your doors.  

But there are a few things that might. It may take getting inside our heads and thinking outside the traditional banking box to do so.

Opportunity #1: Millennials are 30 percent more likely to bank and check finances on their mobile devices. According to CreditCards.com, 88 percent of the 83 million Millennials in the United States use a smartphone. On top of that, ComScore reported in April 2015 that one-fifth of Millennials access the internet exclusively through their smartphones.  

What does this mean for you? First and foremost, a mobile responsive website and mobile banking apps are musts. Other mobile technology like mobile deposit and the ability to turn debit cards off and on are appealing to Millennials (3 percent more Millennials said they consider new banks based on products and services over convenience than those of other age demographics).  

Opportunity #2: 10 percent more Millennials need assistance when making purchasing decisions than other demographics. When I have a question about something like a mortgage or credit card, I pull up the Google app on my iPhone or double-click the Google Chrome icon on my computer. Whoever is listed first for my search gets my traffic.  

Blogging, while unattractive in name, has shown to be a huge benefit for financial companies who do it right in terms of connecting with twenty-somethings searching for information. However, this has to be done the right way.  

For example, Northwestern Mutual created their own personal finance site, Mint Grad. The content on the site is geared toward the financial issues of soon-to-be and recent college graduates, and is written by young adults who have experience managing student loans, income from a first job and other financial responsibilities. A blog, subsite or even a separate site dedicated to helping answer commonly asked questions by Millennials not only gets you the web traffic, but puts your institution’s name in the top of readers’ minds when they are ready to act.  

Offline, having knowledgeable front line staff who can provide answers to common questions is essential for in person or phone interactions.  

Opportunity #3: 67 percent of Millennials check their finances at least once per week; 30 percent of that group check their finances daily. These “financial checks” are more than online or mobile banking logins; they are opportunities for cross-selling within the website or app. If your online banking or mobile banking providers allow for customized content within their system, this can be hugely beneficial.  

Let’s say you have a mobile banking user who just purchased a car with an auto loan from your bank. The next time they log in to check their balances or deposit a check with their smartphone, an article from a financial blog (or even better, your own blog) regarding smart budgeting while living in debt or another relevant topic could be served up. It’s this type of personalization and cross-selling that appeal to twenty- and thirty-somethings.  

Opportunity #4: 71 percent of Millennials would rather go to the dentist than listen to what banks have to say. You may be saying, “How is this an opportunity?” Stick with me. The 2008 recession greatly affected Millennials and our attitude toward money. Many of our parents or grandparents lost big on their retirement accounts, making us a little more prudent, suspicious and savvy with the way we view money and banks. But the opportunity lies in finding a new way to communicate and connect with us.  

Want to sell us a life insurance policy? You better highlight how it can benefit us now, not 50 years down the road. Want to get us physically in the door of the bank? Offer online scheduling for personalized appointments. Want to get to know us and our needs? Ditch the traditional bank atmosphere and talk to us over a cup of coffee.  

The biggest lesson is this: you cannot sell to us the way you did to our parents or grandparents. “We have great service” is no longer a differentiator, but an expectation.  

Other Great Opportunities for Banks to Connect with Millennials There are several other opportunities when it comes to interacting with Millennials. While I won’t dive deep into all of these statistics, they are crucial for you and your staff to be aware of.

  • How would Millennials respond to an extremely negative experience with a bank?
    • 54 percent- “Tell everyone I know”
    • 26 percent- “Write a public review on an independent website”
    • 25 percent- “Post about it on social media”
  • One-third of Millennials are open to switching banks in the next 90 days
  • What do Millennials say would spur them to switch banks?
    • 30 percent- One year’s free banking
    • 25 percent- Good review from a peer
    • 21 percent- Better digital experience
    • 12 percent- Free cup of coffee every month
    • 6 percent- Advertising campaign

Millennials will soon be the largest generation within the U.S. population with the most purchasing power. In order to ensure we stay a customer or switch to your bank, you will have to get outside traditional thinking.  

You can place whatever labels you want on us Millennials, we’ve heard them all. But you better incorporate into your profile that we are always looking for the best thing for our money, which is a huge opportunity for you.      

Sources: “Inside the Mind of Millennials: What Financial Marketers Need to Know.” January 25, 2016. http://thefinancialbrand.com/56818/inside-the-mind-of-millennials-what-financial-marketers-need-to-know/   Berman, Jillian. “Where Millennials Go for Financial Advice.” Dec. 13, 2015. http://www.wsj.com/articles/where-millennials-go-for-financial-advice-1450062181  

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