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Profit From Gen Y as an Emerging Market

By: Alex Peak

We move fast. We like acronyms better than real words (e.g., brb, smh, imo, btw). Flexible work schedules are really important to us. We like gadgets. Connectedness and narcissism are what make us wake up in the morning. We would rather wear flip-flops and shorts to work than business-casual slacks and fancy shoes. We’re the Boomers’ babies. We’re generation Y, and we drive marketers crazy.

Gen Y is about to replace the Baby Boomers as the largest percentage of the U.S. population. As a member of this generation, I can confirm that not only are we dominant and non-conforming, but we’re also demanding and we stir things up in the marketplace — the banking industry included. We’re a smart generation, and we value education and hard work. Though many of us are skeptics [we’ve seen the lofty divorce rates, foul business play (i.e., Enron, Rupert Murdoch, etc.), and watched our nation fight in wars and battle terrorism], we see the importance of managing money.

According to a Cisco press release, “survey results indicate the rise of Gen Y will have a profound impact on retail banking, providing the next opportunity for substantial revenue growth.” Treat Gen Y as an emerging market. Undoubtedly, we need banks. But we’re a different kind of customer, and we have non-traditional needs.

We’re on-the-go, and we want the access to our bank accounts to mirror that. As a generation that’s always had technology at our fingertips, we expect banks to embrace mobile devices as much as we have. Offering online and mobile banking, email alerts, 24-hour access to accounts and account histories that are easily accessible are a start; everything is about convenience with us. Also, if we have financial questions, we would prefer online forums, FAQs or blogs on bank websites over calling and talking to an actual person.

We’re part of the reason the U.S. Postal Service is flat-lining. We’re big fans of online bill pay. We would rather file away a PDF on our computer than have piles of mail sitting around. According to a survey commissioned by Fiserv, “members of Gen Y indicated that they do not keep file cabinets full of financial records and bill statements; instead, they prefer organizing their finances electronically.” Gen Y prefers to receive e-bills and e-statements in place of traditional paper formats, which reflects the “high degree of comfort with Internet-based services as compared to previous generations,” reported the survey.

We also like social media. To us, companies that support social media are granted credibility. We feel good about businesses that are willing to reach out to us through our preferred means of communication like email, Facebook or Twitter.

We are a frustrating segment of the market. But there are a lot of us, and we need financial management. Just remember that you have to treat us differently because we are so different. If you can walk our walk and talk our talk, you can get our business.

Alex Peak is assistant editor of BankNews.

Copyright (c) November 2011 by BankNews Media.