Attracting and Engaging Younger Customers – Is This Strategic For You?

Here at FNBB, I have been facilitating a group of younger employees tackling the issue of what FNBB can do to address the ability for banks to successfully attract and engage younger customers.  This has yielded some great ideas and as 2023 plays out, you’ll see the fruits of the work this group is doing.  We talk about how young millennials and Gen Zs think about and consume banking services, payments, and other related topics.  They share their own experiences and importantly, concepts and data points from their interactions with friends of a similar age.  It’s tremendously insightful.  As I have engaged in discussions with these incredibly smart FNBB team members, I have come to realize several things (speaking from a generational standpoint, not about FNBB specifically):

  • They eagerly want to share ideas with Baby Boomers but are often “unheard”;
  • As a group of similar age but with a range of experience and expertise, they are more comfortable sharing in a small group setting than in a larger group, particularly if the larger group contains more baby boomers;
  • While I like to think of myself as very open minded and always looking to be innovative, I am still a 62 year-old baby boomer and have to work diligently to not “imprint” my baby boomer preferences on the group.

Perhaps you have a similar group of younger team members (or even customers) with whom you regular meet to gather ideas and brainstorm. If not, 2023 might be a great year for you to get started with just such a group.

Just before my most recent FOB meeting (FOB – Future of Banking), I was reading the most recently Gonzobanker article from Cornerstone Advisors.  If you don’t already know, Gonzobanker is the periodic parody piece from Cornerstone, and this one did not disappoint.  The focus was a meeting with a bank CEO, the CFO and a young intern to discuss the formatting of the latest investor deck / annual report.  As the back and forth between the three plays out, the intern, Tony, keeps bringing up insightful data points that have come from his own experience or those of similarly situated young people. And while well-meaning, the mythical CEO in this parody play just isn’t getting it.  The CEO in this story is a hammer and therefore, everything becomes a nail.  It’s funny but there is a chance that this might hit a little close to home for you, so check it out at your own risk here –That Pesky Intern

So how close did that parody align with your present situation?  If you are the CEO and read that parody and if that struck you as eye opening, perhaps you would want to consider looking at 2023 as a transition year to a focus on banking the way it will need to be, not the way it has been. You are the CEO and if you decided that action is warranted, you are empowered to make it happen.  I’ll never forget a bank executive meeting I was in as a consultant years ago, and there was a good bit of squabbling amongst the management team about at particular topic. Marketing was at odds with the deposit team, and the IT folks didn’t care for either of the ideas.  The CEO had been sitting quietly at the end of the conference table, taking in the banter.  All of a sudden, he took his notebook and slammed it on the table, which sounded like a gun had been discharged in the room. He had everyone’s attention at an instant and said something along the lines of, “people, I have decided that {issue} is a strategic issue for us, and I want an outline for how we need to address this by the end of the day.” After which, he got up and walked out of the room.  The level of collaboration and team esprit d corps went to 110%, and they came up with a great draft plan.  So, as CEO, if you wanted to change how banking would be conducted at your institution by 2028, then you would be able to work backwards to what specific steps in 2023 would start you on the path of achieving the 2028 goal. And make it happen.

If you are not the CEO but you feel that perhaps this parody represents elements of how your CEO actually thinks and acts, then your challenge is harder. Since you are not the CEO, you cannot unilaterally decide to make changes regarding your engagement level with younger potential customers. What you can do is at least 2 things:

  • Work with the team you do have control over and work towards advancing new ideas for engagement with younger customer in whatever area you manage; and
  • Gather/create stories and be prepared to speak to ideas on how your institution can/should be more engaging with younger prospects at any and every opportunity that presents.

You may not have complete control over the strategic direction of your institution but that does not mean you should throw up your hands in frustration and not try to effect any change.  Change what you can and be ready to advocate for change, with a cogent argument.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

It’s a new year. What will you have accomplished when a year from now, you look back at 2023?  Each year that passes, more baby boomers will no longer be customers, and if you are not meeting or exceeding those numbers with new, younger customers, you are on the road to oblivion.  Make a point to think strategically about attracting and engaging young millennials and Gen Zs and get started on that plan … this year!