Millennial technology

What I, A Millennial, Am Looking for in a Bank

The other day I read an article titled, “Millennials Migrating Away from Large Banks,” which had the following quote:

“Two-thirds [millennials] said that the traditional and digital banking experience they receive at their current bank is only somewhat or not at all seamless, and nearly half (47 percent) said they would like their bank to provide tools and services to help them create and monitor their budget.”

Yep, I thought. Sounds about right. 

Don’t get me wrong, I think my bank is trying to relate to my generation. They provide text messaging services where I can view my balance, transfer money via mobile and so forth.

However, these services always seemed very basic to me.

The Millennial Generation’s Technology Expectations

I am admittedly spoiled when it comes to “easy-to-use” functionality, quick-loading pages and aesthetically pleasing interfaces. My generation grew up with Google for our schooling and YouTube for entertainment. We’ve been using cell phones/mobile devices since middle school or earlier and have been a witness to how quickly each new update or app downloaded to said mobile device can change our lives drastically. Snap Chat, anybody?

We are used to, and even expect, things to constantly be changed for the better, and in revolutionary ways. For us, technology innovation is normal. If Apple doesn’t come out with a new iPhone every other year, there’d be a riot.

Banking Technology Isn’t Keeping Up With Personal Finance Practices

To add to these high technology standards, I grew up in a household that taught me the Dave Ramsey envelope system. You know, the one where you set up a budget with envelopes representing your spending, savings and bill categories and your money is all accounted for. I loved the envelope system because it taught me that it was okay to spend, as long as I planned for it.

Once I got a checking account at a real bank that wasn’t my nightstand drawer, that system didn’t fit with the bank’s system. It let me open a checking and savings account, and that was it. If I wanted categories, I had to assign them to myself manually and check them on paper. As I don’t use checks, I don’t balance a checkbook, and eventually I simply checked my statements online. However, this was like cleaning up cookie crumbs after eating an entire pack of Oreos. It didn’t keep me accountable like the envelope system. But I also couldn’t go back to the envelope system because cash was so much less convenient than debit cards and online bill pay.

I noticed my spending usually went over budget every month and my savings account grew at a much slower pace than I intended it to. There was one year where I worked a summer job and ended up with less money than I had started with, which frustrated me to no end.  And I’m not the only one—many of my millennial friends have either developed a personal financial management system that they strictly adhere to, or they struggle with the same problems I do.

In recent years, the bank added what they call “My Money Map” which sorts spending and budgeting into categories online. I was very excited for this functionality at first.  However, the interface lacked the usability I was looking for. I wanted to have the ability to check my budget on the go—whether I was in the grocery store, gas station, shopping—wherever. But the categories were small and in list form, so it was difficult to see and interact with in the quick, simple way that I wanted.  In addition, I didn’t have the ability to edit the categories I was given, which meant that several didn’t apply to me and cluttered up virtual space.

All the while, my spending and saving continued to produce less than desirable results.

Of course, I don’t blame the bank for my bad spending and money management habits. Every time I make a purchase, I understand that it is my decision to do so, and if I really wanted to, I could be much more frugal and smart with my money.

However, there is something to say for the fact that debit/credit cards and mobile payments in general have made it more difficult to be aware of spending habits, especially if people don’t balance their checkbooks manually. Checking a bank statement online just doesn’t have the same impact as writing out each purchase. There’s less pain associated with withdrawals. They swipe their cards at the checkout, tap “Yes, I agree to this amount” and that’s that.

Personal Banking Finance Apps

So, to solve my financial management problem, I turned to what I knew was constantly being updated and changed: apps. I was shocked to learn that these small apps, many of them even from independent developers, were much more intuitive, user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing than most large banks’ systems. Many gave me advice on how to save and what I needed to save in order to reach my goals on time. It generated pretty charts, timelines and step-by-step guides to navigate the software.

It seemed pretty ludicrous to me that most banks, even the larger ones, don’t have this kind of technology.

As a millennial, I want to do more in my savings account than check my balance, pay bills and transfer money back and forth. I want a way to manage my money in an easy manner so that I can track my spending habits and plan my financial goals, without the hassle of putting it all on paper or squinting at a website on my phone that was designed for a laptop.

Not all financial institutions are so far behind, however. I did some more research and found a credit union with a platform similar to the apps I liked so much. I decided I was interested, as I would rather manage my money directly on a bank’s platform than trust an app completely with my financial information.

When I made an appointment to learn more about the platform and possibly switch financial institutions, however, I found that only one or two people seemed to know how to work the platform. The general staff had no idea how to answer my specific questions about the mobile banking functionality. They told me I would have to come back when the developer was in house. This made me hesitant to switch, as I didn’t want to go through the hassle of switching if the credit union’s own employees hadn’t been properly trained on the app.

If I could speak to the CEO’s of all the financial institutions out there, I would say this: as a millennial, I speak for my generation—the demographic representing more than a third of the American workforce—in that we want better technology when it comes to banking. There are many of us who would be brand ambassadors of your institution if you invested in high-level financial management platforms.

I know I would be.

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