Banking on Millennials?

I’m in Newport Beach, California where I just presented at Moss Adams’ 15th annual Community Banking conference.  In tandem with Bank Director’s Publisher, Kelsey Weaver, we focused our remarks on the intersection of fintech companies with traditional banks — and how partnerships potentially position community banks to better serve millennials.

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

In our recent “talent-focused” digital issue of Bank Director magazine, we reminded readers that “as baby boomers retire and Generation X enters middle age, it’s not surprising that top executives and boards are turning an eye more aggressively toward seeding their banks for the future. But, when it comes to recruiting and retaining younger people, banks have a bit of a public relations problem.”  This opinion formed the early foundation for today’s presentation — one that allowed Kelsey and me to share our thoughts on how and where bankers might invest in a generation consisting of 75 million Americans.  Without re-creating our hour-long remarks, here are three of the points I hope stood out to attendees:

  • Loyalty < Price. In classic economic terms, banking is a mature industry (that is, an industry in which price carries the day over any other offering).  Interestingly, many community banks tout their interests and ability to compete with larger institutions based on their customer service models.  However, the expectations of consumers (be it individual or business) have changed to reflect an “always-on, always available” mindset that does not line up with how many community banks operate.
  • You’re not alone.  I mentioned the San Francisco 49ers were recently featured in the Wall Street Journal — not for football purposes; rather, to show how the franchise has taken steps to better engage with their millennial employee base. As I shared, the team’s challenge to “relate to a generation — generally described as 18-to-34-year-olds — that has been raised on smartphones and instant information” parallels that of most banks in the U.S.  I promised attendees I’d post the link to the piece I wrote that features the Journal’s report… Promise fulfilled.
  • There are Friendly Fintech looking for you. Competition comes in many shapes and forms and I believe that banks are acting too slowly when it comes to digital transformations and offerings. Yes, there are truly disruptive fintech companies that have zero interest in aligning with traditional financial institutions.  However, there are quite a few that have built platforms that engage with consumers (both individual and business) that want to support banks as part of a mutually beneficial relationship.  In our presentation, one of the key pieces is a look at who is friendly to banks in the fintech space (juxtaposed with those that are obviously competitive).  If you’re interested, here is a link to the PDF version: Moss Adams 2015 presentation by Bank Director.

Separate from our presentation, let me encourage readers interested in building customer loyalty to check out the work of James Kane.  He opened the conference yesterday morning by presenting “The Loyalty Switch: How to Make Anyone Loyal to You, Your Team, and Your Bank.”  A smart speaker with an even smarter message.  Finally, thanks to our friends at Moss Adams for inviting our participation and the audience of CEOs, CFOs, Controllers, Internal Auditors, and Audit Committee Members from banks here on the west coast.  A privilege to share our perspectives with all of you this afternoon.

Quick Guide: 2015 Growth Strategy Survey (Bank-specific)

Recently, Business Insider and the Wall Street Journal picked up Bank Director’s 2015 Growth Strategy Survey.  The research project reveals how many financial institutions continue to recognize growth in traditional areas — most notably, loans to businesses and commercial real estate — while struggling to attract a decidedly untraditional digital generation.  So in case you missed it, today’s piece highlights key findings from this annual research project. 

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

Over the weekend, our friends at the Wall Street Journal ran a very telling story about the efforts being made by the San Francisco 49ers to better engage with their millennial employee base.  Clearly, the NFL franchise’s challenge to “relate to a generation — generally described as 18-to-34-year-olds — that has been raised on smartphones and instant information” parallels that of most banks in the U.S.  In addition to being a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at what’s happening out in Santa Clara, it also sparked today’s post.

You see, as a 38-year old who runs a great privately-held company that employs quite a few folks under the age of 30, I have to admit that I am tiring of the broad strokes being used to describe millennials’ needs and ambitions.  However, I will admit to being surprised to learn that there are approximately 75 million people in the U.S. under the age of 34.  This is a huge number, especially when you hear that every day, for the next 15 years, 10,000 people will turn 65 (h/t to the CEO of Boston’s Chamber of Commerce for making me aware of this reality).

Surprisingly, 60% of the executives and board members that responded to Bank Director’s 2015 Growth Strategy Survey say their bank might not have the right products, services and delivery methods to serve the vast majority of this demographic.  While I haven’t run this by our very talented Director of Research (*hello Emily McCormick), to me, this shows that the relationships that community bankers nurtured for decades will be increasingly of less value with this emergingly-influential generation who have grown up in a digital world and who, stereotypically, value the speed with which it operates.

As the Wall Street Journal shared when reporting on our research results, “banks have watched less regulated finance companies ranging from mortgage lenders to private-equity firms encroach on many of their main businesses.  But ask an executive or board member at a bank what nonbank company they most fear, and they’re likely to name the world’s biggest technology company, Apple Inc.”  So what were our key findings?  Glad you asked…

Three key findings (click this title link to access the full report):

  1. Apple is the nonbank competitor respondents worry about most, at 40%  — just 18% of respondents indicate their bank offers Apple Pay.
  2. Bank mobile apps may not keep pace with nonbank competitors. Features such as peer-to-peer payments, indicated by 28% of respondents, or merchant discounts and deals, 9%, are less commonly offered within a traditional bank’s mobile channel. 49% of respondents indicate their bank offers personal financial management tools.
  3. Despite the rise of P2P lenders like Lending Club and Prosper in the consumer lending space, just 35% of respondents express concern that these startup companies will syphon loans from traditional banks.

Instead of millennials, banks have been finding most of their growth in loans to businesses and commercial real estate.  Yes, 75% of respondents want to understand how technology can make their bank more efficient… and 72% want to know how technology can improve the customer experience.  But I find it telling that today, loan growth remains the primary driver of profitability for the majority of responding banks.  In fact, 85% of respondents see opportunities to grow through commercial real estate loans.  As we found, executives and board members also expect to grow through commercial & industrial (C&I) lending, for 56%, and residential mortgages, at 45%.  So for those looking to predict the future of banking, I think findings like these are quite telling.  Indeed, it would appear what’s worked in the past may be what to bet on for the future.

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The 2015 Growth Strategy Survey, sponsored by technology firm CDW, reveals how bankers perceive the opportunities and challenges in today’s marketplace, and technology’s role in strategic growth. The survey was completed by 168 chief executive officers, independent directors and senior executives of U.S. banks with more than $250 million in assets in May, June and July of this year.  Ironically, last year’s survey found that credit unions, not Apple, were the “non-bank” competitor that banks were most worried about.  In fact, can you believe that Apple didn’t even make the cut?  My, how quickly times can change.

Banking Millennials

The Millennial generation comprises 80MM people, the largest in U.S. history.  Born between the years of 1980 and 2000, millennials range in age from 15 to 35 years and are just beginning to gain their foothold in the economy.

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

Do we really want to bank millennials? If I borrowed a crystal ball from one of the soothsayers out at Jackson Square in New Orleans’ French Quarter, I imagine this would be the question on most everyone’s mind that joined me at our annual Bank Board Growth & Innovation conference.  With many community banks making their money through C&I lending, the immediate concern (at least at the board’s level) is how do I grow right now?  While many conversations trended towards the opportunities to engage this demographic by leveraging emerging technologies with a bank’s sales and marketing efforts, I was not surprised to hear a concern about the investment costs of bringing new technologies into a bank.  The rationale, as I understood it, is by the time a bank gets a return from its investment, it may be too late.  I’m not saying this is my way of thinking, but I do think it reflects apprehensions by key officers and directors when the conversations comes to these future business owners, inheritors of wealth and digitally demanding individuals.  As shared in a presentation by Ingo Money, in the next five years, the Millennial generation will have the largest income in U.S. history, and any company that can monetize Millennial spending or data may seek to bank them.  Still, regional and community bankers wrestle with the type of client they might be — both now and in the future.

Key Takeaway

To kick things off, we invited Dave DeFazio from StrategyCorps to “look beyond the basics” in terms of mobile banking.  As he shared, over 75% of people in the U.S. own a smartphone in the year — and most everyone has some sort of addiction to their device.  With all of the big banks offering the “big five” today (mobile banking, mobile bill pay, mobile deposits, ATM/Branch locators and P2P payments), bankers should think beyond basic banking transactions to develop a mobile presence that is a “can’t live without” app.  Some of his tips: provide easy authentication, pre-login balances, voice recognition, budgeting tools and coupon and shopping tools.

Trending Topics

Anecdotally, the issues I took note of were, in no particular order:

  • The four biggest banks in the U.S. are among the 10 least loved brands by Millennials.
  • Millennials want banking services designed for their needs that are instant, simple, fair and transparent… which is why new providers are beginning to emerge.
  • For those not familiar with Moven, GoBank and Simple… take a look at what each has to offer.
  • The cultural divide between banks and FinTech companies is getting smaller for bigger banks, but remains high for regional and community banks.  Nonetheless, these banks are in a better position to collaborate and seriously consider new tools and products as the decision making cycle is considerably shorter then at large institutions.

Picked Up Pieces

While today was “just” a half day, some of the more salient points I made note of:

  • Per Jennifer Burke, a partner at Crowe, “proactively identifying, mitigating, and in some cases, capitalizing on these risks provides a distinct advantage to banks.”
  • In terms of building value, the ability for a bank to grow is as important as a bank’s profitability.
  • It was refreshing to be at a banking conference where talk about regulation was at a minimum; in fact, it seemed that the regulatory environment presents more of a distraction than it poses a threat to bank’s looking to grow.
  • The corollary to this point: competition from non-banks is higher then ever before.

To see what’s being written and said as we wrap up our time in New Orleans, I invite you to follow @bankdirector, @aldominick + #BDGrow15.