What Matters to Millennials: Gen Y, Gen Z and Digital Banking

Credit Union Marketing

Learn what millennials, including Gen Y & Gen Z, care about so your bank or credit union can reach them on their terms with marketing they’ll care about.


Understanding Gen Y and Gen Z

The term millennial—also known as Gen Y—refers to anyone born between the early 1980s and late 1990s. It sometimes (mistakenly) includes Gen Z, those born after 1996. Due to the growing size of this double consumer demographic, there’s an increasing body of research about their needs and behaviours. Because of their potentially enormous impact, banks and credit unions can’t afford to ignore the millennial (Gen Y) and post-millennial (Gen Z) market. As of June 2018, more than 7.3M millennials were living in Canada, making them the largest demographic since the Baby Boomers. By 2019 Gen Z will surpass Gen Y for the first time, comprising 32% of the global population (Bloomberg) and, by 2020, Gen Z will make up 40% of all consumers in North America (Accenture). The aggregated net worth of millennials is expected to double from 2015 to 2020, up to $19-24 trillion (V12 Data).

What makes everyone born since the 1980s unique?

Millennials and post-millennials are digital natives. They’ve always been around mobile devices and take them for granted. Their focus on technology and the kinds of assumptions they make about communication make them different from any other demographic as a target audience. This demographic makes purchases, appointments and donations online. They get most of their information through Google or social channels, and they communicate using mobile technology. Millennials especially will seek out peers’ opinions on social media as well as doing consumer research online. This group embraces experience, whether it’s a new app on their smartphone or travelling to somewhere they’ve never been. What will increase their loyalty to your bank or credit union most will be finding information that’s clear, uncomplicated and trustworthy, along with easy and user-friendly access to their accounts and money on their smartphones.

Simplicity and financial wellness

Growing up in the digital age has cultivated in Gen Y and Gen Z a desire for clear and simple communication, whether reading information online, sending or receiving a message, or using an app. Simplicity for them also often means less text and more images and icons. Financial well-being is a state where individuals have control over their day-to-day and month-to-month finances. They’re able to absorb a financial shock, meet their financial goals and make choices that let them enjoy life. Financial wellness is a goal for both Gen Y and Gen Z.

Access to finances and balances

Most Canadians—but especially Gen Y and Gen Z users—nowuse online and/or mobile banking. According to the Canadian Bankers Association:

  • 76% of Canadians use digital channels to conduct most banking transactions
  • 88% of Canadians said they used online banking in the past year
  • 53% of Canadians said this was their most common banking method
  • Mobile and app-based banking is on the rise, led by the millennial uptake

One study by Accenture found that two-thirds (65%) of North Americans bank online at least once a week, whereas 69% of Gen Z users prefer to use a mobile app to do their banking. Another survey found 47% of millennials use mobile banking (Jumio and Javelin). The top three reasons they said they use mobile banking apps were to: Schedule person-to-person money transfers; Transfer funds between accounts; and Check their transaction history.

This affirms the desire for simplicity and financial wellness, which is supported when this demographic is able to easily access account info and money to stay on top of finances.


Here’s what we learned:

  • Millennials are not a single demographic. Gen Y and Gen Z customers have different needs and different approaches to banking that are important to understand and address.
  • Gen Y and Gen Z bankers are digital natives who take mobile technology for granted as a tool for communicating, finding information and accessing bank accounts and money.
  • They want clear and simple communication, delivered in a user-friendly, online experience and they want control over their money to serve their goal of financial wellness.
  • Millennials and post-millennials want to be able to access their bank accounts and money anytime so they can send or transfer money and check account activity.

If you want to market effectively to millennials about banking or credit unions, you need to understand them and what matters to them. Rather than creating campaigns with visual and linguistic clichés you think they’ll identify with (they won’t), you want to deliver what they’re looking for—before they even know they’re looking for it.

Metric Marketing has years of experience in brand development, digital campaign strategy and deployment, and marketing measurement and analytics for Canadian credit unions. We have researched the millennial and post-millennial market extensively and created seasonal campaigns specifically for this demographic.


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