Another day, another handful of articles go live about how millennials are upending, disrupting, or ruining something—television, golf, avocados. There’s been no shortage of pontification on how millennials are disrupting retail banking as well with their love of mobile apps and their distrust of greedy banks, how they’re the “unbanked” generation.
It’s a powerful narrative and commonly used by financial institutions to justify delaying or underfunding digital investments. There’s just one problem with this narrative: It’s simply not true, or at least not anymore.
As you undoubtedly know, the millennial generation consists of some 83 million people born roughly between 1981 and 2000. They make up the largest consumer segment and are soon to be the recipients of the greatest wealth transfer in history. But having come of age during the Great Recession – or so the narrative goes – they’ve been painfully slow to enter the “real world,” as many are still in school, jobless or underpaid.
A Generation Divided
In publishing FIS’s third annual Performance Against Consumer Expectations (PACE) Report, we felt it was important to include a notable difference from prior editions. For the first time, we broke out the millennial segment into “young millennials,” those between ages 18 and 25, and “senior millennials,” ages 26-36. That’s because, in crunching the PACE data, we noticed some very distinct behavior differences between younger and older millennials.
In a departure from the script, senior millennials were found to be less digital-savvy than their younger counterparts. For example, young millennials reported using their mobile devices to pay bills or for travel or entertainment more than twice as often as older millennials. Additionally, young millennials reported making 25 percent of their person-to-person payments via mobile, compared to 14 percent for senior millennials.
The millennials are also divided in what they want and expect from their banking providers. While both groups see safety and security as paramount, younger millennials want much more transparency in their interactions with banks and say that getting reliable, relevant information from their banks is a top pain point—the very likely and understandable reaction to surprising bank fees. On the other hand, senior millennials want banks to be more involved (from afar) and supportive of their aspirations and need guidance finding a better deal on mortgages and business loans.
Senior millennials share many of the same values, expectations, and banking habits as Generation X. The two groups (which FIS has collectively termed Gen MX) also earn similar incomes and are experiencing similar life events like buying a home and beginning to plan for retirement. Young millennials are adhering more to their popular stereotypes, earning less and doing less with their money.
They Grew Up, Got Jobs and Moved Out of Your Basement
The PACE data also shoots some serious holes in the narrative of the “unbanked” millennials. That’s because senior millennials report being much less likely than their younger cohort to use alternative financial services like check cashing services, money transfers or prepaid cards. The data shows that as millennials grow older, they transition from being “unbanked” to being fully banked—and when they do, they’re more likely to choose a credit union, regional or community bank over one of the top 50 global banks. This trend increases even more for Gen X and baby boomers, as direct banks, community banks and credit unions have chipped away at the big banks’ dominance as consumers age and explore alternatives.
When asked, millennials of all ages overwhelming said that they would prefer to go with their primary bank or financial institution when the time finally arrived for them to take out that mortgage or apply for a business loan. But PACE data shows those “first choice” intentions don’t materialize into reality as millennials age, as the primary bank holds less than half of senior millennials’ home mortgage (50%), credit card (42%) and investment accounts (42%). So, banks – even those that already have a relationship with a young consumer – are essentially giving away nearly half of their account opportunities by dismissing the needs and importance of millennials.
It's Never Too Late … Until It Is
The problem for many banks and service providers is that they did not make the investment in digitization while they were waiting for the millennials to “grow up.” Well, make no mistake about it, the millennials have grown up … and they’re not going to be nearly as patient with banks that don’t already have the digital capabilities and services they want.
In dismissing millennials (as a whole) and their needs for so long, many banks may have just let the first giant wave of lucrative millennial customers pass right on by. But don’t worry – the young millennials are growing up fast.