Financial Marketing 3.0 is upon us. It’s not a matter of if disintermediation is coming to the financial services industry, but what our response to it should be. In this series, we explore how the needs and attitudes of our target audiences are changing and what financial services companies can do to adapt and thrive in this new environment.
Millennials may have been the first generation raised with their thumbs on a keyboard and emojis as part of their lexicon, but the rest of us—from their Greatest Generation grandparents to iGen siblings and even their own children—have followed Millennials online, into social media and onto a collection of personal communications devices. Millennials have been widely characterized as always on, constantly communicating and expectant of instant answers. That mindset also describes a growing number of the rest of us.
Key Components of the Millennial Mindset
Millennials really aren’t that complicated. What they want and expect includes goals we can all rally around:
- Good value
- Brand values
Convenience matters. But whether it is a coincidence of demographics and technology or just a natural attraction to innovation, Millennials seem to expect to find technological solutions in the palms of their hands. From Kickstarter and Motif to Uber and Washio, platforms that alleviate unpredictability, waiting and transactional speed bumps are finding acceptance. Those services are also introducing the same benefits to the rest of us and raising our expectations that there is an app for whatever we need to do as well.
Transparency is a given for Millennials who were raised by a generation that spent its formative years challenging the establishment and breaking down societal taboos. With their educations driven by search engines, Millennials are used to finding unfiltered answers quickly, along with transparency into processes, operations and even fee structures—the Internet repeatedly reinforces the notion that there are no secrets. Their social connections then help them ferret out the best results. Consequently, Millennials expect to be educated rather than told what to do. They have shown a preference for making the right choices for themselves and for participating in establishing their own solutions.1 This demand for transparency and improved understanding, especially regarding financial services and associated fees, has also intensified for older generations since the Financial Crisis. It underscores the need for more content-focused and sharable initiatives.
Millennials also expect a good value. They want more for less and use technology to achieve this.2 They are also known to expect discounts and perks, and they are willing to give up personal information if the exchange yields something of value to them. While other generations may not be quite as in step with this, it is a mindset familiar to anyone who seeks out and participates in loyalty rewards programs as a frequent diner, shopper or traveler.
And when it comes to brand values, Millennials tend to favor those companies that stand for something. But, authenticity is key. Brands that try to talk the talk without walking the walk can quickly find themselves walking alone.3
What Does This Mean for Marketing?
The Millennial mindset adds fuel to the move toward disintermediation. Because what Millennials want is really what we all want—an authentic experience that leverages current technology, treats us honestly, interacts with us with integrity and is respectful of our time and intelligence while demonstrating an interest in helping us achieve our financial goals.
Delivering that experience requires financial services companies to:
- Recognize that mobile is neither a new frontier nor a trendy phase but, increasingly, a prime location for transacting, banking and communicating.
- Facilitate access as clients of all ages become used to being able to tune in and out of conversations and transactions seamlessly, not just during “banking” hours.
- Understand that it isn’t about broadcasting what you do but creating sufficient context to help your target realize how what you do is relevant to their objectives and lifestyle.
- Operate openly and with integrity. Transparency is not a differentiator; it is becoming table stakes.
- Offer value. Millennials expect their patronage to be recognized with discounts, perks and familiarity. It’s hard to assert that you truly value your clients’ business when you chew up their time getting reacquainted with them whenever they contact you.
The “kids” may still have some maturing to do, and they may not have the accumulated assets yet to be most wealth managers’ prime target. But as a generation, Millennials are proving to be fiscally conservative and focused on saving, both for retirement and their children’s educations. And, they are influencing the rest of us. Their need to save time, gain instant access, integrate their personal and professional lives, and exercise greater control over what happens to their money is not necessarily a generational thing. However, it does add fuel to the disintermediation that is underway in the financial services industry.
As the Millennial mindset spreads, companies having trouble engaging this generation may soon find themselves simply having trouble engaging clients unless they stop trying to control conversations and start listening, learning and being a part of them.4
For more information on how Blue Flame Thinking can help you capitalize on these new realities of the financial services industry, contact Steve Schmieder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 312-327-5120.
Join us soon for part three of our series: “We’re All Technology Companies Now.”
 Michael Liersch, “Millennials and Money,” Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, 2013.
 “Millennials and Money: How to Capitalize on the $30T Opportunity,” a presentation by Wayne Badorf, CFP®, CFS®, Wells FargoAdvantage Sales, July 8, 2014.
 Tanya Dua, “Marketing to Millennials, the Advertising Week Way,” digiday.com, posted Oct. 2, 2014, retrieved Oct. 2, 2014.
 “The Millennial Disruption Index,” Scratch, Viacom Media Networks, 2014.