What Millennials Want from their Bank

By Paul Schaus

Google’s self-driving cars are on the roads of Mountain View, California and Austin, Texas. Smart condos in Toronto come with a mobile app that remotely controls lighting, temperature, blinds, and much more. Samsung’s Family Hub refrigerator lets you order groceries from an app on the refrigerator’s screen.

Those are the experiences and kinds of marketing messages that bombard consumers. And especially for millennials—a generation of digital natives—those experiences outside of financial services impact their expectations of what their banking experience should be.

A recent survey by CCG Catalyst asked 450 millennials between the ages of 18 to 35 years old to describe their vision of banking in 2035. Here’s a few selected responses:

  • “A robot car will take care of all my transactions for me and everything will be digital.”
  • “The bank will take of all your bills and synchronize between different accounts and companies. Graphs and data about your money will learn about your spending habits.”
  • “Banks will oversee your money to help save and pay bills to ensure quality of life.”
  • “Ensuring access to banking accounts through every mobile device, television, computer, and gaming system. Payments will be done digitally and physical cash will fade away.”
  • “Overdrafts will have to be approved before issuing. No cash will be used.”
  • “There will be no charge for ATM usage.”

Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce, according to Pew Research and poised to receive about $30 trillion in inheritances from their baby boomer parents. In the course of our research, millennials told us what they expect from their bank:

  • High savings account interest rates
  • Low loan interest rates
  • No fees, especially hidden fees
  • Transparency
  • Privacy and safety
  • A financial institution that isn’t ‘too big’
  • Easy account management

 Here are three steps you can take today to successfully position your bank brand in the eyes of this increasingly economically powerful demographic. 

  1. Recognize that millennials want a banking relationship

The good news is that the vast majority (90%) of millennials use some form of banking product. Of those, 59% have a bank account, 11% have a credit union account, and 19% have both a bank and credit union account.

The transactions that they perform aren’t all that different than what everyone else. Millennials withdraw funds (84%), deposit checks (77%), pay bills (69%), and use online (68%) and mobile banking (63%).



Checks, although decreasing in volume, are still around. Almost half (47%) of millennials have a checkbook and write checks. However, the younger the millennial, the less likely they are to use checks. While 54% of 25 to35 year olds write checks, only 35% of 18 to24 year olds write checks.

Millennials also still visit the branch. For a digitally engaged generation, it may be surprising that 39% of millennials have visited a bank within the past week.

Don’t ignore the branch in your marketing and branding messages.

  1. Provide millennials with financial handholding when they want it

 Millennials value personal relationships with their bank for complex or sophisticated financial planning. They want to complete transactions digitally, but they still want face-to-face interactions with a professional who can help them make sense of complex financial products or help with goals such as budgeting, paying off student loans, or saving for a home.

A recent Bank of America/USA TODAY study found that 41% of millennials are ‘chronically stressed’ about money. In addition, 65% said that anxiety about money affects their emotional well being in personal relationships (49%), leisure activities and interests (55%), physical health (42%) and job performance (22%).

Clearly there is an opportunity for banks to market their products and services as a way to reduce millennial stress levels.

For example, many millennials want to own a home. Our respondents are largely renters, with only 11% saying they own a home. However, a recent survey by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate found that 82% of 13- to 17-year-olds say homeownership is the most important part of achieving the American Dream, with most expecting to own their first home by age 28.

The desire to own a home could become the basis of an entire marketing campaign.

  1. Educate millennials about safety and security

Millennials overwhelmingly love to use PayPal, with 9 out of 10 of our survey respondents saying they use PayPal to make financial transactions. Google Wallet (16%) and Apple Pay (10%) lagged far behind. Only nine respondents say they use a financial institution branded app.


Although millennials love electronic forms of payment, they may not be aware that financial technology companies such as PayPal, Google, and Apple are not subjected to the same regulatory scrutiny for security and privacy as financial institutions.

Financial institutions can embark on an marketing and education campaign that stresses the limitations of using non-banks for insuring money and transactions. Safety and security are always a strong marketing message, regardless of age demographic.

Bottom line

Millennials still visit bank branches, want to have a personal relationship with their banker, and may not understand the safety and security inherent in a bank brand. Understanding what makes millennials tick will enable you to market your products and services appropriately to their needs and wants and turn them into loyal, long-term customers.

Paul Schaus is the President, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of CCG Catalyst. Contact him at [email protected] or (800) 439-8710 ext 201. Follow CCG Catalyst on LinkedIn and Twitter.