How to Build a Lasting Banking Relationship with Millennials

College graduation is one of the biggest milestones in life. You walk across the stage and into the next phase of life. You join the workforce, find a home, and figure out how to make, spend and save money. Today’s college graduates represent one of the largest generational demographics in history. There are more than 92 million Millennials in the US, and they represent an enormous opportunity for banks that are willing to really look at the needs of this generation. [1]

Beyond the sheer size of this customer base, more than half of the individuals under 30 years are unbanked.[2] Add to that, 42% of Millennials between 18-29 say that they (or someone in their household) is burdened with student loans,[3] most exceeding $20K.[4]

Even if they are not managing debt, virtually every Millennial faces decisions about work – which then necessitates finding a home and some form of transportation. In almost every scenario, that means a credit check. That’s a problem for the 36% of Millennials who do not have credit cards, and therefore lack a credit history. Some banks have realized that secured credit cards can be a great tool for recent college graduates. These vehicles have low limits (e.g., $300), and banks report activity to the three major credit bureaus. So rather than pressuring financially conservative, debt-heavy Millennials to apply for high rate cards they can’t afford, this is a safe way to build long-term credit health.

Only 21% of banked customers believe the advice they receive from their bank improves their financial well-being. The remaining 79% of customers define their banking relationship as “transactional” or “commoditized.”[5]

As Millennials leave college to start their adult life, they need a trustworthy source for financial literacy. Offering this kind of guidance has always been an important part of lasting relationships with valuable customers. The difference is that Millennials expect to be able to access practical information and financial tools immediately and securely through online banking

Regardless of size, digital offerings or diversification, most banks offer the same branch services. For instance, almost all banks offer free student checking and savings accounts, which eliminate fees until the customer reaches their mid-20s. But it’s what happens next that may matter most. Ultimately, relationship quality may determine what banks win with this generation. For example, despite leading the way with digital banking solutions, the four leading banks are among the top 10 least loved brands for this demographic.[6]

Millennials who are facing huge financial decisions need a single source of dependable counsel and solutions that can scale with them. With a legacy of relationships and a foot in the community, local banks have a tremendous potential advantage, if they recognize that omnichannel banking has become ‘table stakes’ and innovate accordingly.[7] Building the greatest possible lifetime value will require that your bank is proactively structuring ways to support your Millennial customers as they continue to reach new milestones. 

One simple way? If you have a branch in a college town, visit the campus. Take time to talk with students about their current financial hardships and their goals for after graduation. Share with them some of the ways you can walk that path with them. In short, rather than focusing on grabbing short-term revenues from high interest rate cards, develop genuine relationships, personalized solutions and online tools that will mature with your customers.

What is your bank doing to attract Millennials with the attention and services that prove you have a personal interest in their success? Share your thoughts below or tweet your ideas at @HORNEBanking with the hashtag #MillennialBanking.


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[1] US Census

[2] Millennials Seduced by Big Banks, The Financial Brand, February 2015

[3] Student Debt Viewed as Major Problem, Harvard University Institute of Politics

[4] Federal Reserve Data

[5] No Loyalty? Millennials Not Afraid to Dump their Banks, The Financial Brand, May 2015

[6] Millennials don't trust banks - Are credit unions the answer?, Lending Solutions Incorporated

[7] Omnichannel: the new normal for retail banks, Banking Technology

Topics: Relationships, Millennials

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