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By Zoha Zoya, Creative Director at R/GA London

It is safe to say, we all have an intricate relationship with money. It’s a relationship that changes with us as we grow and represents the times we are living in. However, compared to prior generations, Millennials and Gen Z are known to have a more strained relationship with money and financial organisations. In fact, research has found that younger generations have put their trust in tech companies over traditional banks.

For financial brands, the change in attitudes represents a fundamental challenge. No longer can they rely on the same old tactics to establish relationships and drive customer loyalty. Banks and other financial institutions, therefore, need to understand what drives Millennials and Gen Zers if they are going to bridge the gap in trust and persuade younger generations to choose them over new, more customer-centric entrants in the tech space.

What makes Gen Z and Millennials different?

Research has found that these generations focus their spending on everyday needs while thinking less about saving for the future. They are distrustful towards financial institutions and feel overwhelmed by the idea of investing since they don’t know where to start. Yet, what they are certain of is that they want to invest in institutions that help build the way towards a more sustainable future. A WSJ survey found that almost 70% of millennials would choose to invest in companies with positive sustainability elements, even if that meant a 5% lower return on investment.

Gen Z and Millennials also have a different relationship to convenience. With tech companies like Apple and Google creating services such as digital wallets that are easy to use and instantaneous, younger people’s expectations have heightened. For example, younger people expect to bank online, with research finding that 98% of Millennials and 99% of Gen Zers use digital banking apps – compared to Gen X and Boomers at 86.5% and 69.8% respectively.

The pandemic has accentuated Gen Z and Millennial attitudes to traditional banking services at the same time that it has introduced even more challenges to younger people. Gen Zers, for example, were furloughed at double the rate of older generations. This prompted a surge in customers looking to spread out the costs of products without being subjected to extortionate interest rates and payment terms. Young people have seen the value of flexible payments and therefore it’s not surprising they are leading the charge in the payments revolution and becoming more spending savvy as a result.

How financial organisations can regain trust

In the midst of these challenges, banks need to differentiate themselves and earn the trust of young people again. However, making this a reality is easier said than done. Building trust takes time and financial organisations have to meet the wants and needs of younger generations if they are going to create a relationship that lasts.

Creating a bank that can earn people’s trust requires rethinking the role of money and banks in our daily lives. People view money as a way to express themselves, represent their beliefs and serve their needs. A relationship-driven bank will align with people’s purpose and empower them to achieve their goals. It will fight for their right to equality, be inclusive no matter what race or gender they are and commit to sustaining a more human future for the next generation. A good example of this is Mastercard. The payments brand has launched Truename, a service that allows transgender and nonbinary people to display their own chosen name on their card. The feature is a simple way to demonstrate Mastercard’s support of diversity and inclusion and regain trust.

However, trust isn’t only gained by purpose, banks also need to improve their services by valuing people’s time and treating it as a currency. This means making sure they can spend it on what matters for them the most. Banks should also spend time learning about their customer’s needs and habits in order to deliver a unique and personalised experience. Take Liv as an example, a digital bank focused on millennials in the Middle East, that uses personal data to create lifestyle insights that generate contextual recommendations. Users get banking that’s relevant, timely, and personalised. To speed the process of support, Liv has launched Olivia, which can help customers in any account queries while sharing insights to help them learn from their spending habits.

Alongside this, banks must give people control over their finances and help them make the right decisions every step of the way. With lockdown easing and people starting to plan for future milestones including travel, buying a house or building a family, banks play a vital role in helping people access money easily while making sure they don’t go into debt.

Part of this is getting a single view of their finances. Acting as an aggregator that brings all a customer’s money and lifestyle together, Emma is a financial companion that connects all financial accounts using open banking and helps them to avoid overdrafts, find wasteful subscriptions and give the control they need over their finances. Traditional banks can learn from Emma and ensure that they build convenient services that bring real value to customers.

Each one of us has a unique experience with money. There is still a role for banks to be part of our unique experience but only if they humanise our relationship with them. Only then, will the next generation start trusting banks again.

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