Reaching Gen Z: The Unique Considerations For Financial Institutions To Keep In Mind

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By Zephyr Jaeger

In the financial institution world, education is king — it’s widely understood and appreciated that empowering the public, especially your own members, with financial knowledge is paramount to everyone’s success. As money management professionals, the value of financial institutions’ educational prowess is unlimited. However, without consideration of the target audiences’ preferences, that value can be lost in translation, wasting time and effort along the way. 

That disconnect is especially important to avoid when attempting to reach a certain up-and-coming demographic: the notorious Generation Z. Ranging from 10 to 25 years old right now, Gen Z is a sprawling age group that encompasses people in wildly different stages of life from post-grads to fourth graders. There’s a lot going on within this one bracket. But whether they’re perfecting their multiplication skills or scrambling to find a rewarding job after a socially distanced graduation ceremony, all of Gen Z has one gigantic thing in common: they’re digital natives. 

While Gen Z has much more in common with each other than just being raised in the age of technology and the internet, many of their preferences and personality traits can be traced back to their digital native status. Many think of them as phone- and computer-obsessed, but the fact of the matter is that they’re just going with what they know, and it doesn’t all come back to mindless TV shows and YouTube content. 

The oldest of Gen Z started out way back when with digitized education in the form of the Type To Learn computer program, Bill Nye science videos, and the Leapfrog Leapster. From entertainment to learning, this generation has had technology deeply ingrained in their educational and personal lives since day one. 

So, why is this digital generation of such importance for financial institutions to keep in mind and cater to? The older bracket of Generation Z (ranging from 17 to 25) already has a ridiculous amount of financial power (in part because of the opportunities they’ve been afforded, such as monetized online content creation) and are either entering, in the midst of, or freshly out of college and starting in the workforce.

They’re technologically-minded, autonomous, and a new kind of go-getter, and their financial power is increasing day by day. However, despite that, Gen Z actually has the lowest financial literacy compared to other generations. As they enter the financial decision-making chapter of their lives, being a source of education, guidance, and trust is one of the best ways to both help Gen Z out and get them to become members of your financial institution. 

Let’s take a look at some of the key considerations for financial institutions to keep in mind when attempting to connect with this unique generation.

Individualism and Trust Are Crucial. They Don’t Go For ‘One Size Fits All’ 

Partially fueling this general feeling among Gen Zers is their general distrust of traditional banking institutions. This distrust stems from a number of things, including having lived through both the Great Recession of 2008 and the COVID-19 pandemic, among other troubling economic factors. Being truly open, having good lines of communication, and adapting to Gen Z’s needs are good ways to start earning their trust. 

On top of that, Gen Z is incredibly interested in being socially aware, which includes championing individuality, self-expression, social justice, and green practices. When it comes to where they put their money, whether they’re shopping for birthday gifts or starting a savings account, they look to institutions that also champion those things and celebrate the individuality and individual needs of their members, new and old. 

They Want Financial Education. They Just Don’t Want Traditional Methods. 

As mentioned earlier, Gen Z disconcertingly has the lowest level of financial literacy when compared to the other generations. Obviously, this can be chalked up to them being so young; who would expect a newly-of-age generation to have as much financial literacy as, say, baby boomers who have been learning for over 50 years? Well, when it comes down to the numbers, it turns out that none of the generations have outstandingly good financial literacy. When you trace it back, it all partially comes back to a general lack of comprehensive financial education in schools. 

Even when students do have access to financial literacy courses, most report them to be mundane, hard to pay attention to, and easily forgettable. Want to know what I, a Gen Zer, remember learning in school? I remember Bill Nye demonstrating how 1.3 million Earths can fit inside the sun. I remember how to type without looking at the keyboard thanks to Type To Learn. I remember basic multiplication and have good hand-eye coordination from using my Leapster after dinner. 

Digitized and gamified learning has been working for a while, and with today’s modern technology and capabilities, it’s easier than ever to digitally cater to this technologically minded generation that needs help getting their financial bearings. 

They Have Extreme Financial Anxiety 

This insight requires careful consideration and handling as it’s tied to numerous other things, but it generally comes back to the first two points. Gen Z grew up watching their parents, aunts and uncles, and older siblings struggle through economic hardships on repeat. Additionally, Gen Z struggles with an overwhelming amount of general anxiety relating to a number of factors. This up-and-coming generation wants financial knowledge and stability; it’s just that it’s not always as easy and accessible as it should be. 

As financial anxiety is inextricably linked to low financial literacy, one way to help battle this financial anxiety is to be a champion for financial education that meets Gen Z’s specific needs and interests. Be open with communication, policies, and external factors that might affect their finances. Digitize resources in clean, clear, trustworthy ways, but always be available to speak in person if that’s what they need. Make your intentions, your values, and your missions unmistakable and transparent. Show that you’re willing to change with the times, with the needs of this increasingly financially powerful generation. 

Reaching Gen Z is not an opportunistic or predatory strategy — it’s a necessity for financial institutions as these “kids” age out of adolescence and into adulthood. The oldest of them aren’t even kids anymore. They’re in their mid-20s and are in need of helping hands when it comes to their finances. Though they lead with caution and social impact in mind, Gen Z is willing and able to learn and grow as long as they can find an institution they can truly trust. 

This blog originally ran on the Zogo website.

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