Ongoing investment in technology by the retail banking sector is essential if the industry is to win the business of a maturing generation of tech-literate consumers who are forsaking traditional physical channels in favour of online consumption of financial products.
Seperate studies of Gen Y consumers (those aged between 21 and 29 years of age) by Fiserv and Cisco reveal an up-and-coming generation of fiscally responsible young adults who are more comfortable operating in a digitally-connected environment than preceding generations.
Members of Gen Y are frequent users of online and mobile financial services, the research finds, are more likely to have debit cards and savings accounts than any other generation, and rely heavily on other people and online information when making financial product decisions.
According to Fiserv, which commissioned research by Accelerant, 48% of Gen Y with a credit card signed up for the card online, and 36% of those with personal loans applied for the loan online. Eighty percent of the sample had also used online banking within the past month, a higher percentage than any other generation.
Geoff Knapp, vice president, online banking and consumer insights, Fiserv, says: "This is a formative period for financial institutions to establish strong relationships with Gen Y, and the survey reinforces how important it is for institutions to deliver accessible banking services that will satisfy these consumers' comprehensive needs."
Similar results were uncovered by Cisco, which found that 40% of Gen Y customers use Web-based personal financial management (PFM) tools (primarily those offered by their banks) to manage expenses, reduce debt, and maximise long-term savings.
The Cisco study, which surveyed 1055 US consumers aged 18 and older, found that young consumers are embracing new communications technologies such as mobile and video, and adopting online behaviors at an "astonishing rate".
Philip Farah, director, Cisco Internet business solutions group, financial services practice, says: "The recent economic crisis has accelerated the rise of Gen Y as a major segment for the U.S. economy while the decline of boomers' influence is happening faster than anticipated. This will have a profound impact on retail banking, as banks' current value propositions are mainly designed around the needs of older generations. Banks now have a window of opportunity to embrace Gen Y through the appropriate utilisation of technology and a shift in current business approaches."
Both Fiserv and Cisco found that many young consumers are extending electronic financial activities from their computer to their mobile phones, with one-third of the Accelerant sample conducting mobile banking activities in the last month, compared to only 11% of baby boomers.
The role of online forums and friends and family in helping make financial decisions also stood out in both studies, indicating a growing importance for financial institutions to stake out a presence in Internet-based communities.