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"Society bristles with enigmas which look hard to solve. It is a perfect maze of intrigue."
- Honore de Balzac

Banks are working furiously to decode the Millennial generation’s puzzling financial habits and interactions. The trade journals constantly talk about them, and at a retail banking conference I attended earlier this year they were one of the hottest topics of conversation. Attendees viewed multiple presentations and took part in many discussions that evaluated methods for how best to target and market to this young, new tranche of customers. The questions asked were not easily answered. What are the Millennials' preferred channel of choice? How do they prefer to engage with their bank — via mobile or digital? Would they inherit large lump sums from boomers?

The surprise to me is the contradictory sets of data or perceived notions that we have around this population segment. Let me clarify this statement. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Millennials, defined as those between the ages of 18 to 34 in 2015, accounted for 75.4 million of the U.S. population, surpassing the 74.9 million Baby Boomers (ages 51 to 69). The situation is slightly different in the UK, where they account for 13.8 million of the population versus 14.8 million Baby Boomers. Regardless, Millennials are a significant force with which to be reckoned.

We've all assumed that Millennials, having grown up with their computers, iPads, mobile phones, and every other connected gadget, would prefer to do all of their banking in mobile channels. This tech savvy generation are addicted to all things "digital." They line up for hours, if not days, for the release of the next iPhone. They rarely detach from their connected world and love using social media to communicate. Therefore, we thought Millennials would prefer using technology and the digital channels to bank as well. Well, yes and no.

According to research that was released by Bain & Co. late last year, the continuous growth of mobile banking usage has plateaued, showing only a 3 percent growth in 2016. Furthermore, this international study of 137,000 consumers from 21 countries shows that Millennials prefer either to pick up the phone or to visit the branch — they're seeking human interaction.

Yet a newly published study by J.D. Power surveying 78,000 U.S. consumers shows that mobile services are on a rise: up 49 percent by Millennials and 16 percent by Baby Boomers. However, what is noteworthy is the large number of branch visits: 71 percent of all banking customers visited their branch an average of 14 times last year. Of that number, the Millennials visited the branch 11 times.

Furthermore, the survey shows that satisfaction is highest among those who used both mobile and the branch. As for servicing, Millennials cite the incidence of a problem or complaint as the key reason to switch banks in the past 12 months. Finally, 78 percent of all new accounts were opened in a branch by the Millennials.

Is there an enigma associated with Millennials or are they like any other generation? What is the bottom line? Getting the customer engagement and customer experience aspect right is critical when addressing this generation. Like any other generation, they want a consistent, relevant, and seamless experience. They want the ability to move among channels — whether digital or in a branch — and have their needs addressed on each. They want their interactions to be authentic and offer value.

What is very enlightening is the Millennials as new entrants to the banking arena are seeking guidance and human interaction — more so than originally thought. And as such, banks need to provide this to win these customers, regardless of whether banks are servicing or onboarding them. Banks need to provide more intuitive and user-friendly online applications, which are driven through insights and intelligence. Carefully designed and perfected customer journeys for all your channels that integrate with AI and that unify marketing, sales, and service into one application will help to ensure that this generation becomes a loyal customer base. Simply put, they want their needs met, when and where they want to engage. No enigma there.


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