Why Banks Need To Cut The Stereotypes And Build Cross-Generational Financial Services

Why Banks Need To Cut The Stereotypes And Build Cross-Generational Financial ServicesWhy Banks Need To Cut The Stereotypes And Build Cross-Generational Financial Services

The millennial is nothing short of an obsession in the world of retail banking, and indeed across all industries whose prosperity has some dependence on the ability to engage this generation of consumers. Countless hours and dollars have been plunged into creating financial products, services and experiences that appeal to the needs and values of millennials, who in the U.S. alone number 75.4 million -- surpassing baby boomers as the nation’s largest generation. When you do the math, the investment makes sense but the stereotyping that comes with it must end. In order to build successful cross-generational financial services, banks need to stop marketing to millennials and start focusing on the individual.

This fixation has reached fever pitch in the media, and from it has emerged a blanket persona that is applied to anyone in this age bracket: stylish, social media-obsessed city-dwellers with good jobs who are perhaps a little more self-involved than previous generations. This generalization is problematic for a number of reasons, and all of them come down to money being left on the table for banks.

Millennials might be the most diverse generation yet.

A number of recent studies have called out the mass generalization of millennials and revealed their true diversity. One report, the Millennials and Money by Vested (email required), pointed to millennials’ preference for in-person customer service, despite the widespread assumption that these digital natives want to handle their entire financial lives online. Another finding revealed that millennial women are far more skeptical about the products marketed to them than men. They are attracted by proven benefits versus the promises made in marketing language. Never mind the stark socioeconomic contrasts that exist between those in large coastal cities and more rural environments.

Without understanding the vast nuances that exist within this group, financial services providers risk overlooking a broad set of potential customers through misguided marketing efforts, and they could be depriving other generations, too.

The baby boomer market is being undervalued.

If the industry got it wrong about millennials, the stereotype it has assigned to older generations is probably incorrect as well. In fact, a recent report (email required) showed that 86% of marketers have inflated estimates of the spending power of consumers under 35, while the 72% assume that people over the age of 55 spend less than they do. How much missed revenue has this cost banks and other institutions?

What do we learn from history? Nothing!

Traditional institutions have spent the last few years playing catch-up to more nimble, data-centric fintech entrants that have succeeded in capturing the attention of the millennial market. While they have certainly made progress, time moves swiftly and it won’t be long before the world’s attention shifts to Generation Z -- those born from the mid-90s onward. Surely there’s a way for the industry to avoid a repeat overhaul and start building cross-generational financial services?

Fortunately, rapid advancements in cloud computing and artificial intelligence have enabled institutions to put their big data to use, turning raw data into information that can generate actionable and highly-personalized recommendations for customers.

While many banks have been held back by legacy technology infrastructure and siloed organizational structures, the rise of cloud-enabled platform banking solutions is creating new opportunities to get more personal about where, how and when they interact with and market to their customers. In particular, institutions that maintain multiple relationships with an individual customer -- for example, an auto-loan, checking account or brokerage account -- should remove departmental silos to yield a more complete view of that customer to facilitate new cross-selling opportunities while improving risk decision making.

The rise of multichannel banking -- from smartphone, tablet and desktop applications to telephone and branch interactions --provides banks with an additional edge in getting inside the mind of the customer. Access to near real-time data that reveals behavioral insights and preferences and even geographical location, means that banks understand the exact moment a customer makes a decision or identifies a need that they can satisfy with a tailored offer.

Possibly the biggest enabler of cross-generational financial services, though, is the rise of open banking. While often viewed as a competitive threat to banks, the implementation of PSD2 in Europe and the eventual domino effect in other markets is actually a potential boon to forward-looking institutions. The ability to gain a clearer picture of a customer’s entire financial life through access to third-party data will power faster, better and more personalized innovation that anticipates and satisfies the needs of the individual rather than the presumed preferences of the generation to which they belong.

This post previously appeared on Forbes.