As millennials grow into the largest cohort in the United States, financial institutions must shed the same marketing tactics used for decades and re-vamp for its most important target market.

That is the message delivered by David Lester, managing director and finance lead at Brightworks Interactive Marketing and author (I (Heart) Money, From Middle Class to Millionaire). He described how Apple, Nike and other retailers have mastered retailing to millennials by innovating and creating new experiences. Financial institutions should follow in their footsteps if they want to keep up.

Lester provided five steps credit unions and banks could use to modernize and entice millennials:

  1. Money Genius Bars:"Clients are hungry for more information to be better with their money, but making an appointment, sitting in a dingy office and then being force-fed an array of credit cards and low-interest loans drives clients away from asking for help," Lester said. "If financial institutions had approachable 'money geniuses' that would demonstrate tactics and strategies in a non-threatening and fun way, branches would be packed like Apple stores."
  2. Community Help: Millennials instantly go to the internet to find solutions to their problems. People can watch a YouTube video on how to do just about anything, "Why not be able to learn about ETFs vs. mutual funds or fixed vs. variable mortgages in a quick, humorous and informative video in the comfort of your own home?" Lester asked.
  3. Social Customer Service: Banks know all too well that when people have complaints, they go to Facebook or Twitter to air them. Why not take community management to the next level and allow customer service representatives perform simple tasks like transfer money, remove holds or change reoccurring payments from monthly to weekly through direct messages?
  4. Goals and Values vs. Products: Instead of facing confusing products like mortgage or GIC rates at a branch, a money coach should engage customers to help identify their goals, values and beliefs are towards money.
  5. Celebrate Success: At Apple, they celebrate when someone buys their first iPhone. Why don't financial institutions celebrate and bolster support for people who are achieving financial freedom by paying off their credit cards or mortgages? And why don't they offer support groups for small business owners, retirees, students or people just starting out saving for their first home?

Lester added, the future of financial institutions should be like a "Home Depot" for finances: "we can show you how, cheer you on while you do it yourself, or be there for the hard stuff to take your hand when you need it."

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Roy Urrico

Roy W. Urrico specializes in articles about financial technology and services for Credit Union Times, as well as ghostwriting, copywriting, and case studies. Also: writer/editor of a semi-annual newsletter for Association for Financial Technology since 1997 and history projects funded by the U.S Interior Department, National Park Service and Warren County (N.Y.).