For Financial Services firms targeting millennials, authenticity is the key

For Financial Services firms targeting millennials, authenticity is the key

‘Don’t lie to anyone, but particularly don’t lie to millennials. They just know. They can smell it. Be yourself’ – John Green , Author

In our extensive face to face research with millennials on their attitudes towards financial management and financial services providers, their constant underlying desire was for authenticity and influence.

Lots of research has taken place on what millennials want from Financial Services providers and guess what? They want what everyone else wants. They want flexibility in products and channels, they want help but not interference, they want a grown up relationship based on trust not avarice, they want to ‘have it their way’.

The difference with millennials however is why they want these things. Our face to face sessions revealed a cynicism about brands that went far beyond the world-weary responses of older generations. Older generations have a wariness born of experience with Financial Services, and the associated ‘boom and bust’ economic cycle of economics, the various financial crises, and the resulting disappointing pension performance.

The majority of millennials are not old enough for such a world weary view – and while the prevailing public distrust of Financial Services institutions is a strong influencer on their opinions, behaviours and choices, they tend to take a more optimistic view.

Our research has shown that millennials believe that authenticity from financial institutions is possible, that they can have a genuine voice to engage with it, and that they will reward organisations who prove and provide it with their loyalty.

To successfully engage with this generation therefore Financial Services companies need to understand the origins of this desire for authenticity. The generation that has matured during the noughties have developed alongside the growth and exploitation of the ephemeral, the insubstantial, the disposable – they have come of age in what some have termed ‘the age of artifice’.

The multiplication of ‘always on’ channels of information and communication has created an avalanche of ideas, concepts, beliefs, and marketing hype. This has the potential to overwhelm but millennials have developed a filter to manage this new world and take benefit from it. You might call it a kind of useful cynicism. Every claim, statement, or commitment is looked at with a jaundiced eye. In the age of fake news, the default response of most millennials is doubt.

Our recent work with millennials pulled back the curtain on their attitudes towards banks, financial products, financial advice, and neo-banks – but more importantly it also showed why millennials feel the way they do regarding FS. In short they see banking differently from previous generations, and view financial services as simply another utility that enables their life plans, with its providers having the same onus to provide proof of authenticity in their products and messaging.

In trying to build trust with this sector, many FS providers have rushed to provide products, gadgets and gimmicks which they feel are ‘millennial friendly’.

This is having the opposite of the intended effect – and is only adding opportunities for questions and doubts from millennials. The focus should instead be on establishing authenticity in every interaction and communication. How this can be done effectively is part of the research we are continuing to undertake in this area.

Watch the first part of our research on millennials and financial services here.

As an organisation, we focus on providing companies with a true understanding of their customers and how to engage with them.

Our research sessions are designed to focus less on the ‘what’ and more on the ‘why’ – answering why customers think and act the way they do, and how organisations can respond effectively.   

Talk to us about how we can help you understand how to engage your customers.