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]


Changing Attitudes and Expectations

Decision Making Process; Advisory Services

Channel Optimization

Key Finding from a Previous SYNERGISTICS Research Survey:

Results from SYNERGISTICS 2013 study, Generational Marketing Strategies: Gen Y, Gen X, & Baby Boomers, found that Millennials were more likely than Gen X and Baby Boomers to be using mobile banking.  How has this picture changed over the past several years.

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Highlights of the Study

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.

National Internet Survey – The survey will include 1,000 Internet 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.

Key Dates

July 22, 2016 – Charter fee/Intro pricing ends.

July 22, 2016 – Final acceptance of comments on questionnaire.

October 2016 – Project Report available.

Strategic Questions

  • How is financial behavior and activity different – or similar – among Millennial, Gen X, and Baby Boomer households? Does usage of and demand for accounts and services vary by segment?
  • How do selection factors and criteria for choosing a financial provider differ among generational segments? Which segments are attracted to alternative or non-traditional providers?
  • How do the generational segments differ in terms of payment habits and preferences? What is the activity profile for various payment methods – including checks, debit cards, credit cards, and prepaid cards.  What are the preferred payment mechanisms for e-commerce?
  • Which financial goals or objectives have the highest priority among the generational segments? Are traditional goals – such as buying a home or saving for a child’s education – being supplanted by other issues or concerns?  What financial education topics have the widest appeal to each generation?
  • How do the generational segments differ in channel behavior when shopping for financial products – both in terms of obtaining information or advice and applying for an account or service? How much impact does social media have on the account acquisition process?
  • How do the generational segments differ in their comfort level and usage of innovative technologies for financial services? Is online access by PC becoming “mainstream” across all groups?  What is the relative potential for mobile innovations such as RDC, P2P payments, and mobile payments?  To which segments do wearables have the most appeal?
  • Aside from the obvious age segmentation, what traits, behaviors, and attitudinal variables are useful for designing generational marketing strategies and tactics?

Research Issues

  • Most financial services providers recognize the importance of having strategies for marketing to the three population segments that currently dominate the financial services marketplace – Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. Each of these groups has a unique set of generational experiences that may influence their approach to financial services and make their behavior unique.
  • Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are currently ages 52 to 70 and the older members of this group are now entering retirement.  Many Baby Boomers may be redefining what is meant by retirement as a result of recent economic turmoil. Generation X members are currently ages 36 to 51 and have entered mid-life characterized by expanded financial services needs.  Generation Y – also known as Millennials – are currently ages 14 to 35.  This group is in the life building stage and at the beginning of their financial life cycle.
  • This new survey examines their usage of financial services and various types of providers.  It assesses how the decision making process may differ among the groups including their usage of professional advisors. The channel usage of each group will also be examined. SYNERGISITCS will identify how best to connect with and market to each group.  It is essential for providers to have an understanding of each of these groups in developing and refining their generational marketing strategies and programs. [F246]


Product and Channel Mix

Education and Guidance

Provider Competition

Key Finding from a Previous SYNERGISTICS Research Survey:

Results from a 2011 SYNERGISTICS study found that Millennials were more likely than Gen X and Baby Boomers to have performed some type of banking activity with their mobile phone.  To what extent has usage of mobile banking grown among these generational segments?

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Highlights of the Study

This study examines the financial services profile of Millennials (Gen Y). Their attitudes and involvement with depository accounts, investments, and financial providers are explored.

This is a follow up to two previous SYNERGISTICS surveys – Maximizing Financial Relationships with Gen Y (2011) and Developing Relationships with Gen Y (2008). Where possible, comparisons with previous surveys will be made to provide an historical perspective.

National Internet Survey – The survey will include 1,000 Internet interviews comprised of 700 with those ages 18 to 34, 150 with those ages 35 to 50, and 150 with those ages 51 to 69.

Key Dates

July 31, 2015 — Charter fee/Intro pricing ends.
July 31, 2015 — Final acceptance of comments on questionnaire.
October 2015 — Project Report available.

Strategic Questions

  • Do Millennial consumers have particular attitudes, opinions, and concerns that impact and shape their usage of financial services? Specifically, will providers have to address “unconventional” attitudes toward account relationship longevity, career expectations, taking on debt, and the trustworthiness of large financial institutions in communicating with this market?
  • What are the financial information and advice needs of millennial households? Are they receptive to financial education on topics such as budgeting, managing credit, understanding investments, and buying a home? Do PFM programs and online planning tools represent an effective channel to meet these needs?
  • What are the savings and investment needs of Millennial households? Are these consumers participating in retirement plans and accounts? What is their approach to investment information and advice?
  • What factors or features do Millennial consumers consider important in choosing a financial institution? Are innovations in channel and access technology, such as online account management and mobile banking, more important to this segment than “traditional” criteria such as branch locations and competitive pricing?
  • What are the behavior and preferences among Millennial consumers in terms of payment options and preferences – including debit cards, credit cards, prepaid cards, cash, and checks? Is this segment moving more too innovative payment and transaction technologies – such as remote deposit capture, mobile contactless payments, and P2P services?
  • What are the marketing channel preferences for Millennial households for obtaining information on accounts and services? How do they prefer to apply for or open an account? Is there a role for social media in marketing financial services to Millennial households?
  • Is the Millennial market primarily defined by age? Can these consumers be further segmented in terms of behavioral traits, financial goals and needs, and attitudinal factors?

Research Issues

  • It goes without saying that the Millennial segment is one of the most talked about segments in financial services marketing today. Also called Generation or Gen Y, Echo Boomers, and Generation Facebook, this segment is large with an estimated 80 million consumers. It has been labeled by some as the most influential generation ever. Millennials have witnessed a number of dramatic events – the dot.Com bust, September 11th, the banking and housing crisis and the continuing turmoil in the mid-East. These profound experiences may have impacted them in a number of ways.
  • Millennials are heavy users and the early adopters of technological innovations. Smartphones are this group’s lifeline. Financial services providers recognize that Millennials are unique and that marketing strategies will need to be aligned to their attitudes, values and expectations. Authenticity and transparency need to be demonstrated when dealing with Millennials. Provider loyalty is questionable, particularly with the wide range of competitors competing for their share of the market.
  • Usage patterns of financial products and services need to be evaluated along with the mix of traditional and innovative channels. Educational materials and information about products and services will need to be designed to assist Millennials in making informed decisions. Engaging Millennials will be critical to the future growth and profitability of any organization. [F236]


Product Mix

Branches, PC, and Mobile

Marketing and Communication Strategies

Key Finding from a Previous SYNERGISTICS Research Survey:

Results from the 2007 SYNERGISTICS Hispanic Market Monitor revealed that slightly more than one-quarter of Hispanic respondents reported usage of PC banking and less than one-fifth indicated usage of mobile banking.  To what extent has usage of these popular channels increased among this group of consumers?

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Highlights of the Study

This study examines the attitudes and financial services profile of the Hispanic market.  The report also examines issues related to usage of delivery channels and marketing financial services to this growing segment.

Financial Services and Hispanic Consumers is SYNERGISTICS sixth study examining the Hispanic market.  Where possible, comparisons with previous surveys will be made to provide an historical perspective.

National Internet Survey – 1,000 online interviews – 800 with self-identified Hispanic consumers conducted in Spanish or English based on respondent preference. For comparison purposes, a control group of 200 interviews with Non-Hispanic consumers will also be included.

Key Dates

June 26, 2015 — Charter fee/Intro pricing ends.
June 26, 2015 — Final acceptance of comments on questionnaire.
September 2015 — Project Report available.

Strategic Questions

  • What implications do the attitudes and expectations of Hispanic consumers – toward financial institutions, their own economic status, and future financial needs and goals – have for financial marketing objectives and strategies?
  • What is the financial profile of Hispanic households in terms of relationships with financial providers, adoption of depository products, and usage of credit services? Are there barriers to adoption that providers should address to better meet the needs of this market? What criteria are important in selecting a financial provider?
  • How extensive is payment card usage – including credit cards, debit cards, and prepaid cards – in the Hispanic market? Do patterns of usage indicate preferences that providers should market toward?
  • What financial information and activity channel patterns exist among Hispanic consumers – encompassing branch visits, ATM usage, call center contacts, and online and mobile banking activities? What is the potential for advanced mobile applications – such as RDC, contactless payments, and P2P payments – in this market?
  • How widespread is usage of alternative providers and services such as check cashing facilities, short-term lenders, and money transfer services among Hispanic households? Should traditional providers attempt to meet these needs?
  • What marketing channels are preferred by Hispanic consumers for obtaining information on financial accounts and services? How important is it to use Spanish in advertising, at branches, and on websites?  Does social media have an important role in reaching Hispanic customers?
  • How should Hispanic consumers be segmented and approached by financial providers?  Are standard demographic and behavioral measures appropriate?  Do varying levels of acculturation provide a basis for developing different marketing strategies and tactics?

Research Issues

  • As the Hispanic market continues to expand it becomes an increasingly important market segment for financial institutions.  Not only is this group growing, but it is also evolving.  Emerging generations are increasing in affluence and measures of acculturation.  Even so, a significant proportion remains under-banked and is using alternative providers.
  • Their reputation for brand loyalty makes Hispanic consumers marketing ‘gold.’  Industry experts point out that this segment tends to stick with a brand they have confidence in and has made an effort to serve their needs.  How loyal are Hispanic consumers to financial institutions and how will this impact account acquisition, retention, and share shifting?  How do you reach this important segment?  Do they respond to traditional marketing channels or do they display a particular affinity for methods beyond direct mail?  Does social media represent a viable channel for connecting with this market? Does language play an important role in marketing strategies for the Hispanic segment?
  • Are they remote channel users or heavy branch users? It is important to examine the attitudes and financial services profile of the Hispanic market, as well as their usage of a variety of channels. With this information, financial services providers will be able to develop and fine-tune strategies for capturing and retaining their share of the growing and evolving Hispanic market. [F235]


Advisory Services

Changing Needs and Priorities

Wealth Management

Key Finding from a Recent SYNERGISTICS Research Survey:

Results from a 2013 SYNERGISTICS Mass Affluent survey revealed that many of the Mass Affluent use some type of professional or advisor, with advisors at their financial institution being most widely mentioned. Even so, they are cited by a minority leaving significant room for growth in this area.  Does this change as they approach being a high net worth segment?

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Highlights of the Study

This study examines the financial activity, behavior and perceptions of those with investable assets of $100K or more (including those with assets of more than $1M) in order to assess the changes that occur as the mass affluent market transitions to a high net worth segment.

National Internet Survey – 700 consumers age 18+ – including 600 with assets of $100K-$1M and 100 with more than $1M.


Key Dates

May 1, 2015 — Charter fee/Intro pricing ends.
May 1, 2015 — Final acceptance of comments on questionnaire.
July 2015 — Project Report available.

Strategic Questions

  • Are there differences between mass affluent and highly affluent households in terms of attitudes, perceptions, and expectations that will impact providers’ marketing and communication strategies for reaching these customers? How do aspects such as market volatility, health care costs, changes in tax laws or tax rates, and financial product complexity impact this environment?
  • How does the financial profile – including provider relationships, banking products, savings and investment accounts, and credit services – change or shift as households move from a mass affluent to a high net worth status? How does the demand for new financial products and services differ among these segments?
  • How do relationships with various financial professionals and advisors broaden or change when assessing activity among mass affluent and high net worth households? Is there a shift from a “DIY” approach to a need for more professional guidance?  Are there differences in communication preferences in terms of the desired frequency of contact with professionals or advisors and channels used?
  • Do channel patterns for financial information and advice change or vary as asset level or financial status increases? Does social media have a role as a marketing and communications avenue for reaching mass affluent and high net worth households?
  • Is there an asset level or other point of financial status at which receptivity to the concept of “wealth management” – encompassing services such as estate planning, tax minimization strategies, and specialized credit and insurance services – becomes more positive and broadens? Are there segments for which it is more appropriate to market these services using an ad hoc approach?
  • How extensively are PFM services used by mass affluent and high net worth households? What is the potential for certain types of planning tools and services positioned under the PFM umbrella – such as for tax planning, reaching investment goals, examining loan scenarios, net worth calculations, and budget planning?
  • How can financial institutions identify and target those segments that are mass affluent, high net worth, or possibly a transition group in between?  Beyond traditional descriptors such as age, household income, and asset level – are there more in-depth variables related to household needs, perceptions, and priorities?

Research Issues

  • Financial providers – including banks, mutual fund companies, and brokerage companies – have for many years recognized the mass affluent sector as an important segment for relationship expansion and revenue opportunities.  Although definitions vary, investable liquid assets of $100K to $1M is the typical criteria for segmenting these households.  The improving economy and rebounding stock markets have made mass affluent customers even more attractive.  Cross-selling efforts for deposit products, investments, and credit services have intensified as this market “shakes off” the effects of the economic recession and credit market crisis.
  • A key question to address, however, is at what point do mass affluent customers transition to high net worth?  What are the implications of this for providers – in areas such as product design, communication tactics, delivery channels, and advisory services?  Will personal contacts and a higher level of service become more important to a customer segment that is largely technology savvy and comfortable using channels such as online and mobile banking, as well as dealing with online providers?  And very importantly, how will customers’ own self perceptions impact how providers approach them?  Do once objectionable terms such as “affluent” and “wealth management” become more acceptable when financial assets or net worth reach a certain threshold?
  • These are the types of issues that must be addressed as providers adjust marketing strategies and tactics for that portion of the mass affluent customer base that is transitioning to a high net worth status. [F234]