Gen Z and Millennials

Attitudes and Expectations

Checking, Cards, and Credit

Channel Strategies

Key Finding from a Previous Phoenix Synergistics Survey

According to findings from the 2013 Phoenix Synergistics study, Evaluating the Financial Needs of Students, college students and recent graduates were strong users of online and mobile banking channels.  Is this also true for the up-and-coming Gen Z and student group and what would be the ramifications for delivery system strategies?

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Research Description and methodology

This study examines the financial attitudes and behavior of high school and college students including Gen Z and Millennials.  Their channel usage and preferences are evaluated as well.

National Internet Survey – The survey will include 1,500 Internet interviews with high school and college students comprised of 750 ages 15 to 19 and 750 ages 20 to 25.

Key Dates

February 24, 2017 – Charter fee/Intro pricing ends.

February 24, 2017 – Final acceptance of comments on questionnaire.

May 2017 – Project Report available.

Strategic Questions

  • What is the basic financial profile of students in terms of accounts and services usage and provider relationships? What type of institution do they consider to be their main provider?  Do Internet-only providers have a strong presence in this market?  How extensive is usage of alternative financial providers – such as payday loan centers and pawn shops – by students?
  • How widespread is experience with deposit accounts – checking and savings – among students? In what time frame are these accounts opened?  What factors were important?  How much influence do parents or guardians have in choosing an account?  How are students accessing checking – checks, ATMs, or debit cards?
  • To what extent do students have and use credit cards? What factors or influences were important in obtaining a credit card?  Do debit cards and prepaid cards have a competitive role in the student card market?
  • How extensive is usage of credit products – particularly student loans and automobile loans – in the student market? What factors influence provider choice? How strong is the demand for new loans in the next year?
  • What payment methods are preferred by students for making purchases and why? Is the mobile channel – for POS transactions, P2P payments, and RDC – important in this market?
  • Is there an interest or demand among students for various financial education topics – such as budgeting, managing credit, or saving and investing? What sources – financial institutions, parents/guardians, schools, or government – would be regarded as credible for this type of information?
  • How can students be segmented and targeted for marketing strategies?  Beyond age-based schemes, do variables such as class or grade, sources of income, and dwelling status lend themselves to specific tactics?

Research Issues

  • The large high school and college student market is the up-and-coming consumer group of the future.  This group is comprised of both Gen Z and younger Millennials.  For the past decade, it has been all about the Millennial segment – now here comes Gen Z on their heels.  Having had the recession as the backdrop of their childhood, many industry watchers believe Gen Z will be more financially conservative than Millennials.  As a whole, the student market represents a key launching point for selling financial products and services.
  • To design successful marketing strategies and products for this segment, many questions need to be answered concerning the financial attitudes and behavior of students.  Will this group use traditional banking products such as checking or will they opt for more innovative alternatives?  What is their attitude toward credit and student loans?  Will they prefer credit cards, debit cards or prepaid cards?  Another key issue for providers is the long-term nature of financial relationships established with students.  The provider loyalty of this group may be questionable, particularly with the wide range of competitors vying for a share of the student market – from traditional financial institutions to new online and fintech organizations.
  • This group has grown up with the internet in their pocket and social media as an ever-present part of their daily life. It is essential to evaluate the mix of traditional and innovative banking and payment channels being used by this segment.  In addition, it is important to identify key influencers for this market such as parents, friends, social media, financial representatives, and others.  Educational materials and information about products and services will need to be designed to assist this group in making informed decisions.  Engaging students early and winning their loyalty will be critical to the future growth and profitability of any organization. [F252]


Free membership in a shopping club is a winning feature for business credit cards for small businesses, according to a recent survey by  Phoenix Synergistics entitled, Expanding Small Business Card Programs. Nearly seven in ten small businesses report using business or corporate credit cards and more than half of both current business card users and nonusers indicate interest in a new or an additional business credit card.  One of the top business credit card features wanted by these prospects is a free membership in a shopping club such as Costco, Sam’s Club, or Amazon Prime.  Only zero liability for fraudulent transactions received higher response.  In general, the top 10 features small businesses want include a variety of fraud protection, shopping, travel, and customer service features.

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William H. McCracken, CEO of Phoenix Synergistics stated, “The small business credit card market is characterized by intense issuer competition, and these players are vying for share in a crowded marketplace.  Business or corporate credit card usage is strong among small businesses, but our findings indicate there are opportunities for further growth.  To stand out from the crowd and attract small businesses, issuers will need to offer the features and services small businesses most want on a business credit card.   A free membership to Costco, Sam’s Club, or Amazon Prime was found to elicit strong interest among prospects.  On the whole, small businesses want a wide variety of features encompassing liability and fraud protection, shopping, travel and customer service features.  Those associated with shopping and purchasing will have broad appeal among small businesses – all small businesses have shopping and purchasing needs but not all have travel needs.”

These are among the findings from Phoenix Synergistics study, Expanding Small Business Card Programs, featuring 600 online interviews with owners/executives of small businesses with annual sales of $50K to $5M.  This study examines small business usage of business credit and debit cards, as well as reaction to reward programs, value-added card services, and account management options.


Non-traditional or alternative providers pose a real threat to the future of Millennial relationships with traditional financial institutions, according to a recent survey by Phoenix Synergistics entitled, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers: Financial Insights.  Checking accounts are widely held by all three generational segments, but somewhat more narrowly among Millennials.  One in eight of all Millennial checking account holders have moved or switched their main checking account in the past two years.  By comparison, fewer than one-tenth of Gen X and Baby Boomer checking account holders have moved their accounts.  Top reasons for switching include surcharge-free ATMs, free checking, a life-changing event such as moving or getting married, and better customer service.  Millennials also express the widest likelihood of opening a financial account with a number of non-traditional or even non-financial providers, many of which have the capability of addressing some of these concerns.  Receiving the widest mentions are PayPal and Amazon, followed by Walmart, Google, Apple, and Facebook.

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William H. McCracken, CEO of Phoenix Synergistics, stated, “In absolute terms, shifting of main checking relationships has been narrow.  It is, however, of some concern that this has been somewhat more prevalent among Millennial households.  Millennials also express the widest likelihood of using non-traditional providers, and in many cases these alternative providers can address Millennials’ issues or reasons for switching.  Traditional providers should take this threat very seriously and begin addressing it in terms of pricing and promoting relationship benefits to their Millennial customer base.  Otherwise, financial provider share could be dramatically altered in the near future.”

These are among the findings from Phoenix Synergistics study, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers: Financial Insights, featuring 1,000 online interviews comprised of a minimum of 300 in each of the following age ranges: Millennials ages 18-35, Gen X ages 36-51, and Baby Boomers ages 52-70.  This study will assist providers in developing financial services products, programs, and marketing strategies to target each of these important market segments: Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers.


Decision Making and Application Process

Sources of Information and Advice; Education

Relationship Acquisition and Expansion

Major Competitive Lender Profile

Key Finding from the Report:

Findings from the Phoenix SYNERGISTICS 2016 Mortgage Market Monitor reveal that nearly six in ten homeowners report having a first mortgage. Incidence of first mortgages is found to be highly correlated with age, declining as age increases.

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Research Description and methodology

The 2017 edition of the Mortgage Market Monitor is the second in this series and is being conducted to track and measure the many aspects of the consumer mortgage shopping and decision process.

National Online Survey – 2,000 total interviews with financial decision makers age 18+, with a particular focus on current homeowners and buyers entering the market.

Key Dates

January 27, 2017 – Charter fee/Intro pricing ends.

January 27, 2017 – Final acceptance of comments on questionnaire.

March 2017 – Initial results available.

April 2017 – Project Report available.

Strategic Objectives

  • Size the mortgage market and evaluate trends in a changing environment.
  • Examine the consumer decision making process and sources of information and advice regarding mortgages.
  • Identify strategies and key target markets for acquisition, expansion, and retention.
  • Determine provider selection factors and measure satisfaction with current and/or past mortgage loan providers.
  • Assess the impact of the housing and credit markets on consumer behavior.
  • Monitor the ongoing impact of refinancing.
  • Assess the competitive landscape – comparing major mortgage lenders.

Strategic Issues in the Mortgage Market

  • The 2016 inaugural edition of the Mortgage Market Monitor found a housing market that had stabilized and was in fact showing promising growth potential after many years of uncertainty.  This annual study is designed to assess and track trends related to the many elements of the consumer mortgage shopping and decision process – encompassing aspects such as product design, preferred information channels, the importance of pricing in relation to other features, and application and servicing channels.
  • Refinancing, almost always surprisingly active, continues to have some impact on the mortgage market.  Another important factor is the potential for rising interest rates in the near future and how this may affect consumers’ decisions.  Examining and evaluating the channel mix in the mortgage shopping, application, and servicing process is critical, particularly in terms of how newer channels relate and intersect with in-person or branch-based contact.
  • The 2017 Mortgage Market Monitor will assess the behavior and perceptions of a national internet survey of 2,000 consumers age 18+ – with a particular focus on current homeowners and buyers entering the market.