By: Ruby Walia, Mobiquity
It’s no secret that younger consumers have embraced digital banking. Having grown up in an era marked by major advances in technology and network connectivity, with instant access to one-click-or-swipe products and services, this cohort has demonstrated a preference for electronic engagement over face-to-face interactions.
However, they are not the only ones taking advantage of today’s technologies. As my fellow panelists and I noted at the recent Mobiquity- FinTech Finance webinar on digital banking, adoption by older generations has been growing apace. Bolstered by factors that include ubiquitous smartphone ownership and the far-reaching effects of the pandemic, the members of this group have become increasingly interested in managing their personal finances using apps and online services.
Societal trends have also encouraged older Americans to embrace tech-powered solutions. Out of choice or economic necessity, many are continuing to work beyond the traditional retirement age. With more on their plates and less time to visit a branch or discuss financial needs over the phone, they’re open to new ways to get things done quickly and efficiently.
Family dynamics are playing a role as well. Many Baby Boomers, for example, are not only dealing with the needs of children and grandchildren, but are also intimately involved in managing the affairs of aging parents. Pressed for time and seeking ways to optimize their finances while also ensuring that those they care about have what they need, this cohort is quickly discovering that digital banking can make life easier.
Interest from all ages
Even with that, the conventional wisdom has been that electronic engagement does not offer the same appeal to those in their golden years. As with the stereotypical parents who rely on their children to make sure computers and other devices are set up and working properly, many observers mistakenly believe that older banking customers are not “tech savvy” enough to make use of today’s solutions.
But this has not been the case, especially more recently. Based on the results of a recent Mobiquity research study, designed to assess how digital tools are influencing loyalty and switching behavior in the banking, insurance, retail, and healthcare sectors, there is less of a generational divide when it comes to digital banking than many people might believe.
Specifically, while Americans aged 56 or older are generally more in favor of face-to-face interactions than individuals between 18 and 55, the preference differential varies by sector. In healthcare, for instance, where most of those surveyed favored face-to-face interactions, it’s probably no surprise that 80% of older respondents felt this way, in contrast to 66% of those in the younger cohort.
Less of a divide
When it comes to banking, however, things are somewhat different. Not only are both groups more open to interacting with financial institutions in alternative ways than is the case with the other three sectors, the differential between the two is also at its narrowest. The survey found that 33% of those in the 56+ cohort favored face-to-face interactions, which was only marginally higher than the 29% preference of the younger crowd.
Moreover, the distinctions are that much smaller across all four sectors once people start making use of digital tools. In banking, for instance, satisfaction ratings among all users varied from 65% to 86%, depending on account type. For individuals aged 56 or older, the results were not much different, ranging from 69% to 88%. The pattern was somewhat similar with respect to the insurance, healthcare, and retail segments.
The fact that the older generation is open to and welcomes the advantages of digital solutions isn’t the only reason why banks have been-or should be-targeting this cohort. Baby Boomers, for example, potentially represent a major growth opportunity owing largely to the following four factors:
- Significant financial resources. Born between 1946 and 1964, the members of this group control just over 50% of U.S. household net worth, based on Federal Reserve data, and account for more than half of aggregate consumer spending, according to the Harvard Business Review.
- Sizable population. While Baby Boomers’ population share is down sharply from its 40% early-1960s peak, they still represent the second largest generational cohort and account for 21% of the overall population.
- Strong loyalty to businesses that earn their trust. Having come of age amid the era of strong global brands and the retail mantra that the customer is always right, the members of this cohort tend to stick with products and services that keep them satisfied.
- Long runway for targeted goods and services. Aside from the fact that the youngest Baby Boomers are only in their late 50s, which allows for customer relationships that can run for decades, by 2030 there will be more grandparents than grandchildren in the U.S., according to my fellow panelist, Bank of America SVP Jorge Camargo. And according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 7 in 10 Baby Boomers either expect to or already are working past age 65 or do not plan to retire.
- Underestimated adaptability. If COVID 19 has showed us anything, it’s how adaptable humans can be — and Baby Boomers are no exception. Since the pandemic began, or research indicates that more than ½ of US consumers over 55 are doing more digital banking than they used to, with 37% saying they’re doing more mobile banking and 32% saying they are doing more banking via a website than they used to.
More than large fonts alone
Of course, to attract and retain these individuals as customers, banks will need to provide digital offerings that address all their needs. The table stakes are a complete suite of self-serve capabilities, ranging from basic payments and money movement to wealth management and even self directed stock trading, packaged in frictionless experiences. To appeal to this customer cohort, banks should add interfaces that can accommodate varying capabilities and physical differences, and age-appropriate interactivity. Banks should also include features and functions tailored to customers with active lifestyles, multi-faceted financial situations, and specialized security requirements.
In other words, they will be looking for digital tools that offer benefits well beyond those afforded by traditional banking products and services. These might range from automated tools and advice aimed at preventing unauthorized activity by ill-intentioned family members to connectivity elements that facilitate collaboration with accounting, legal, health, and estate planning advisors.
Winning over the savvy senior
Given the size of the prize, there will be a race to win these customers over. There are two important factors for success that must be considered:
- Trust — Older customers have had more time to build wealth, and this means they have more to lose in taking a chance with a lesser known entity. They will be more risk averse when it comes to selecting a digital partner and are more likely to find a traditional, tried and tested financial institution more appealing. It’s important, though, that traditional banks not rest on their laurels. As other known brands begin to enter the banking space, loyalty could start to fracture with this group.
- Size — Establishing a comprehensive suite of digital banking tools will take a lot of capital — both human and financial. This will be a hard factor for smaller entities to compete on, but established brands from other industries could again cause trouble for traditional banks.
Summing up, when it comes to delivering on the promise of digital banking, the traditional view has been that up-and-coming generations are the future. But given the resources that the older crowd has at its disposal and the loyalty they’ve shown to businesses that give them what they want, it would seem that the prime customers of tomorrow are already here-and ready to do business.