The Best Ways to Build Trust with New Generations

By Doug Wilber

It’s hard to imagine a banking executive who doesn’t recognize the need to reel in younger customers. Doing so gives a financial institution the opportunity to engage consumers just as they’re beginning to build their wealth. Later in life, the thinking goes, they’ll be ready for more lucrative products (investments, retirement accounts, mortgages, life insurance, etc.), and in theory, these individuals will turn first to the institution where they already have a trusted relationship.

But if your bank is relying on outdated advertising methods and channels to reach these fresh consumers, you’ll more than likely come up short. Appealing to millennials and members of Generation Z in a way that truly resonates with them starts with understanding how external factors tainted their relationship with financial services—and what you can do to build that trust back up.

Get a fuller picture of the younger generations

It’s not uncommon for older generations to claim that millennials are financially unstable, but this generation pays way more attention to credit, savings, and budgeting than many realize. It’s also important to remember that millennials and Gen Zers grew up in the age of Google—information is readily available at their fingertips, and they regularly turn to social media as a place to get information from trusted sources.

Facebook IQ’s Millennials + Money: The Unfiltered Journey study reports that 86 percent of millennials value savings, and another 86 percent claim they actively put money toward savings. Even so, this generation remains cautious when it comes to finance. Its members are still recovering from the Great Recession, and for many, massive student loan debt has delayed traditional financial milestones like homeownership.

When it comes to Generation Z (or those born after 1996), many of its members are just starting their financial journeys. But according to Bloomberg, they will constitute 32 percent of the world’s population as of this year. Soon, this generation will be an economic powerhouse. Currently, though, these young people worry about entering the traditional banking system after watching their older millennial siblings struggle with student loan debt.

The good news? Though millennials and members of Gen Z stress over finances, the majority of both generations—83% and 89%, respectively—say they’re optimistic about their financial futures.

For all these reasons (and more), traditional marketing solutions aren’t your best tool when it comes to reaching these generations. Gone are the days when basic TV, print, and radio advertisements could pull in business for your bank. Instead, you need to hitch your wagon to social selling in order to attract and retain these online natives.

Marketing from Y to Z                                                          

Because millennials and Gen Zers grew up in the digital age, social media is the most relevant venue for meeting young customers and guiding them through the sales funnel. More than 90 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds have smartphones, according to Deloitte’s Mobile Consumer Survey 2017, which means their access to social media is constant and ubiquitous.

Here are three tips for reaching members of this demographic where they are and gaining their trust.

  1. Make your bank more personal. 

Though the Great Recession is more than a decade past at this point, both millennials and Gen Zers are still highly skeptical of the financial services industry. They want the banks they patronize to interact with them personally, and thanks to social media platforms, brands are closer to their target consumers than ever before.

Employ social selling, empowering your employees to promote your brand via social media and interact with customers in real time. Supply your employees with authentic, mission-focused messages to share on their social media channels, and make sure that they’re responsive to customer questions and concerns—consumers today expect brands to respond to their inquiries within 24 hours.

  1. Prioritize building trust over promoting offerings. 

Trust is huge among millennials and Gen Zers. As a financial institution, not only is earning that trust rather difficult, but losing it is also rather easy. Even the most enticing financial offerings won’t win these generations over if they do not trust your brand.

That’s another reason social selling is such an important tool for banks: Your employees are some of your most passionate advocates. And because those employees are human, social media users are more likely to trust messaging when it comes from them rather than your bank’s social page. Give your team members the tools to connect organically with customers, and they can promote your products and services from a position of credibility.

  1. Ensure your messaging is consistent. 

Accustomed to having Google at their fingertips, millennials and Gen Zers like to research brands to gauge their trustworthiness. You need to make sure your bank deploys consistent messaging across online platforms—and that this messaging aligns with your organization’s overall mission and values.

That’s why it’s so important to have your marketing team create social media posts for your employees to deploy instead of allowing employees to compose their own messages. Not only will it help you stay within the boundaries of regulatory compliance, but it will also ensure your valuable target consumers aren’t receiving mixed messages.

Different generations require different marketing tactics, but millennials and Gen Zers aren’t as hard to reach as you might think. Just remember to keep things personal, connected, and consistent—and you’ll start building that valuable trust in no time.

Doug Wilber is the CEO of Gremlin Social, an integrated solution that combines social media marketing with ABA-endorsed compliance tools to make it easy for financial services companies to master the social media landscape and engage customers using social networks. Gremlin Social helps ensure safe use of social media communication while maximizing social marketing campaigns, guiding strategies, and monitoring returns on investment​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​. Doug has worked in the fintech space for more than a decade and has experience working with Discover Financial Services,, and Assembly Payments, among others. He’s also advised a number of fintech-focused startups in the Greater St. Louis area.