The following post was written by Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director for On The Mark Strategies.

A recent article in American Banker led me to think about how banks and credit unions can better serve the needs of Generation X and Y customers and members. It’s also the first time I’ve ever read about “cultural anthropology,” but that’s a different story for a different time.

Many banks and credit unions fell into the “dazzle them with technology” approach, which, on the surface, isn’t so bad. Gen X and Y consumers grew up with computers, the internet and the advent of mobile devices, so it makes sense to court them where they are most drawn. However, according to the article, banks and credit unions might want to consider a bit of a 180 when it comes to reaching Gens X and Y.

“People between the ages of 35 and 50 put a high premium on personal relationships with their banks,” the study states. This makes sense but seems to go against the prevailing technology winds.

Yes, banks and credit unions must keep up-to-date with emerging trends in high-tech products and services, but this cannot come at the expense of losing the personal connection. Young consumers, it seems, are also drawn by the personal touch when it comes to the place they choose to keep their money. One study participant summed it up by saying “I’m fed up with the inability of the staff to answer questions or the many times I have to tell them my name and account information all over again. Privacy is important, but perhaps it can be combined with someone who knows your name and appreciates your business.”

Showing customers and members that you care about them and appreciate their trust and business is critical to reaching any consumer. Gens X and Y are no different. Ways banks and credit unions can do this include:

  • Becoming an active partner in the communities you serve (for example, sponsor and participate in local events and charities)
  • Become an educational resource for members and customers (consider offering materials or workshops on credit, savings, mortgages. etc.)
  • Customize branded marketing messages that appeal to Gens X and Y (visuals, wording, tone, etc.)
  • Look for ways to create unique consumer experiences (go beyond the expected and wow them)
  • Find ways to align your financial institution with the “green” movement (popular with these age groups)
  • Have an active and engaged website and social media policy

While staying on top of the latest technology trends is important, banks and credit unions are advised not to forget the personal touch and care consumers desire.