At more than 80 million strong, Millennials are the largest generation ever. They’re also the most diverse, most educated, comprise the largest segment of the American workforce, hold the most purchasing power, and are poised to inherit more wealth than any other generation. As such, they are a crucial market for financial institutions to attract, engage, and retain.

The size and diversity of this generation, however, make them the most challenging to pin down. Research reveals that their attitudes, behaviors, and preferences can vary, and even conflict. Born in the final two decades of the 20th century, they embody a diversity of race, ethnicity, life experiences, and upbringing.

This generation is also at a tipping point in its evolution, as older Millennials are well on their way to achieving important life milestones, such as homeownership, parenthood, and retirement planning, while younger Millennials are still on the cusp of launching into the world on their own.

Many brands and industries — including financial institutions — face a challenge in how best to market to this group. As an industry, banking faces its own particular test. Tagged as the industry most at risk of disruption by Millennials, this hyper-connected and tech-savvy generation thinks of finance in terms of crowdfunding, virtual currencies, and online payment platforms just as much as the brick-and-mortar building with a drive-thru ATM on the corner. And living through the throes of the 2008-2009 financial crisis has made this group wary of traditional financial services providers, at least to some degree.

Millennials are also steering clear of banking as a career choice. In 2006, MIT’s Sloan School saw 31 percent of its graduates go into banking; by 2016, that number had shrunk to 15 percent. Columbia reports a similar trend: 55 percent of its business graduates in 2006 chose banking as a career compared to 37 percent in 2016.

On the other hand, Millennials are similar to older generations in that they use the standard products and services offered by their primary financial institution (PFI). They also have a higher share of wallet with their PFI than any other generation, and it gets a boost when financial institutions actively engage them.

Millennials aren’t anti-establishment when it comes to their banking preferences, they just aren’t fixated on traditional ways of doing things and are more likely than not to try new trends and alternatives in an effort to find what works best for them.

The good news is that by no means have banks and credit unions “lost” this generation. The bad news is that they haven’t completely won it yet either. Although Millennials use more banking channels than any other generation, they have the fewest satisfying interactions. They are the least likely generation to strongly agree that their financial institution knows them, looks out for them, or rewards them.

So what can financial institutions do to better attract and retain Millennials?

Find out in Harland Clarke’s new e-book, How to Master the Millennial Market.

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