Are You Catering to the Expectations of the Financial Consumer Across Generations?

I’m sitting in a small, local community bank with my daughter who is opening a teen checking account. We began the account origination process half an hour ago, the end is not in sight and I’m beginning to feel anxious.

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From a generational perspective, our situation is unique. I’m a millennial with an iGen child, so we are closer in age than most mothers and daughters. That means our expectations as customers should be similar, right? Kind of. While some parallels existed, there was a catch.

Know Your Customer’s Expectations

After our account origination process wound up taking 50 minutes, I wasn’t happy. I expected the bank to provide better service. It’s their job to make me happy, right? If they couldn’t do that, maybe I chose the wrong financial institution. Maybe I should have found an option that was easier and more convenient.

During his presentation at the 2019 Temenos Educational Conference, Cam Marston from Generational Insights said I’m not alone in thinking this way. In the U.S., the Declaration of Independence considers the pursuit of happiness to be an inalienable right. And to further cement the idea into our brains, our culture has conditioned youth to believe happiness is a) the ultimate achievement and b) always derived from external sources.

How did my daughter feel about the experience? She was ambivalent and didn’t really care about the service level. Instead, she wanted instant gratification, which the bank did not deliver. According to Marston, members of iGen expect less adversity since they are used to receiving rewards just for showing up thanks to cultural conditioning.

Despite our differing opinions about the situation, one thing was very clear. Next time, we will choose a bank that is up to our speed. This decision reflects the level of affluence in our culture today, which Marston says results in delayed adulthood, extended lifetimes and population bulges.

As Hans Rosling argues in Factufulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, the future will be better than most people expect due to more stabilized birth rates and increased life expectancy Rosling shows that people who live in countries with higher GDP per capita have a higher life expectancy

Focus on the Needs of Individuals

So what does this have to do with my experience at the bank? According to Marston, during times of affluence, the needs of individuals supersede the needs of the community. The bank officer who worked with us that day had an opportunity to meet the individual needs of the members of two generations who were sitting in front of her. She had a chance to make an impression but wound up losing two customers because her employer’s technology could not provide the experience we needed.

The right technology could have helped the bank cater to the preferences of each generation. That sounds tricky, I know. So how is it done? The solution is open and agile technology that allows for quick changes that cater to generational differences. Because millennial or iGen customers want instant delivery that is available anytime, my daughter and I would’ve been happier if opening an account at home.

At the same time, financial institutions need to meet the needs of baby boomers, who often prefer face-to-face interactions with an organization that has a good reputation and a solid history.

Overcoming Challenges

The right technology will allow financial institutions to cater to these different generational needs, but they need to address several challenges first.

  • Multichannel engagement

No matter how a customer interacts with a financial institution — in a branch, on the web or via a mobile device — they must receive great customer service and a seamless experience. Engagement based on the consumer’s preferred channel of interaction tells them something….you want them to be comfortable. My recent experience lacked this channel of engagement, and it was certainly not seamless.

  • Coordinated efforts

The teams, technology and processes related to a financial institution’s products and channels must communicate and work together. The only place silos belong is a farm — they have no place in financial institutions! But this is a big shift for some organizations, and the right leadership and culture is needed to make this successful.

  • Future ready technology

A financial institution must be able to respond immediately to consumer’s behavior with targeted real-time and transaction-specific marketing. Partnering with the right providers can make or break your ability to serve your account holders.

Technology Must-Haves

Technology should provide financial institutions a lift and a competitive advantage. To ensure an institution can serve across generations, it should incorporate:

  • Flexible technology that will allow the administrators to change fields, instruction text, application flow and incorporate new regulations easily without interference from the vendor. This allows financial institutions to hone processes and maximize efficiency.
  • Mobile capture capabilities, which are essential for allowing camera uploads. Consumers should be able to provide identity verification and other specific conditions on their own schedule using the camera in their mobile device.
  • Digital document signing ceremonies provide consumers with the flexibility they need while allowing for straight-through processing, which will increase application completion rates.
  • Mobile funding options that provide a direct integration and secure method for account funding will allow the consumer to fund their new accounts within the application process.
  • Simple onboarding is necessary for today’s consumers who expect simplicity and ease. Don’t forget to measure the impact of loss with abandoned applications. To avoid abandonment, reduce data entry by using updated technology of today. Simple solutions such as queueing, automated emails and simplifying the application process will reduce abandonment rates.
  • Compliance and Regulations are dreaded but necessary topics. As we all know, “Get to know your customer” integrations with compliance and authentication checks are an important step in the account opening process. Technology with the right integrations, or an open application-programming interface, allow financial institutions to meet requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act (Anti-Money Laundering) and USA PATRIOT Act.

If the community bank had technology that offered this blend of modern convenience, in-house efficiency and future-ready technology, they would have excelled at anticipating and exceeding the needs of consumers like me and my daughter. I would have excellent, anytime service. My daughter would satisfy her desire for instant gratification, and baby boomers would have an institution they could trust.

While it might be too late for that bank to make up for the 50 minutes we spent in their branch, it’s never too late to update technology and give tomorrow’s consumers the best onboarding experience possible. And who knows? If they have the right tools, maybe they will win back a few customers.

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