Generation Z (Gen Z) is your greatest opportunity, both as new account holders and talent for your workforce. While Millennials are a crucial market for community financial institutions, the subsequent generation (Z) is taking their first steps into adulthood, and they need financial partners. Loosely defined as anyone born between 1995 and 2015, “this group makes up a quarter of the U.S. population and by 2020 will account for 40% of all consumers,” according to Fast Company.
While Millennials are the largest group of consumers now, Generation Z is the future; and now is the time to begin thinking about how to best engage them. How will you serve them as consumers? How will you recruit them as employees?
In this blog, we’ll touch on some of the early research and what it indicates about the mindset of Generation Z and how it may affect the future of your institution.
Who are Gen Z?
Generally, Gen Z was born between the years 1995 and 2015, making the youngest members 3 years old and the oldest 23.
As you can see from that range, lumping generational cohorts together based on a ~ 20-year birth window can lead to some unhelpful generalizations. In any given generation, the oldest and youngest members will differ greatly — but looking closer reveals some general similarities in mindset, behavior, and life experience. This blog explores some “working” observations based on current research. Use it as a springboard for your understanding of what makes Gen Z unique.
Generation Z is purposeful about the content they engage with.
Despite the assertion that attention spans have dwindled to a goldfish proportions, Generation Z spends a lot of time on social media, and advertising on those platforms needs to be customized to fit the medium. They can sniff out canned or insincere messages in seconds — take the time to meet them and create purposeful conversations.
Fast Company suggests that “Gen Z have a carefully tuned radar for being sold to and a limited amount of time and energy to spend assessing whether something’s worth their time. Getting past these filters, and winning their attention, will mean providing them with engaging and immediately beneficial experiences.”
A great customer experience is table-stakes.
As native denizens of the Internet, they expect financial transactions to be almost frictionless. They will look for financial service providers who can fit into their digital lives, and think far less in terms of the “bank or credit union down the street.” When your “map” of the world is an internet-equipped smartphone, “local” has less to do with zip code, and more to do with relevance.
Industrious and looking for stability.
Numerous sources have identified a strong entrepreneurial tendency in Generation Z. Fast Company unearthed more nuance in that trend; “We found that while Gen Z like the idea of working for themselves, the majority are risk-averse, practical, and pragmatic. Their supposed entrepreneurialism is actually more of a survival mechanism than an idealist reach for status or riches.”
This pragmatism leaves little room for opaque, top-down decision-making or order-giving. Michael Litt, CEO of Vidyard says this about engaging Generation Z in the workplace, “...when I take the time to explain why my company operates the way it does and how their roles contribute to that, they’re excellent team players. Command and control don’t work with them. Sharing the bigger picture — and being transparent about motives and outcomes — does. Gen Z won’t blindly follow without justification, and that might be their biggest strength.”
Gen Z consumes with a cause.
They’re a values-driven cohort, identifying with causes and supporting organizations that embrace them. Adweek cites “...studies have shown that Gen Z is interested in racial, gender and income equality, as well as environmental issues. Standing up for these values is becoming a differentiator for brands.”
This preference can play very well into the ethos of most community financial institutions — your commitment to the people and neighborhoods you serve is a major advantage. Look for ways to clarify your values and weave them into everything you do — including your marketing communications. Give Gen Z a reason to care about what you do and you’ll find them more than willing to engage with you, as account holders and employees.