Bricks or clicks? Banking millennials say “BOTH!”

Boelter + Lincoln, blog, Omni Banking

Joint bank accounts are kind of scary. I’m a bit of a Scrooge, so when I discovered my girlfriend also had penny pincher tendencies; I put a ring on it. No, that wasn’t the only reason we got married, but it was comforting to know she wouldn’t blow an entire paycheck on the latest DSW boot sale.

Before tying the knot last month, we did what many almost-married millennials do – researched financial institutions to set up a joint bank account. Despite knowing her spending habits, it was still a little scary.

I browsed on a laptop while my better half took to the tablet. We checked out different offers at each bank and credit union; realizing most of them were very similar. So we began looking closer at our online experiences. What stood out? Is the site intuitive and easy to use? Can we effortlessly make transactions from our mobile phones?

For us, the digital and mobile experiences are a must. This is true of our generation. Accenture’s 2014 North America Consumer Digital Banking Survey found that 94 percent of millennials are active users of online banking and 72 percent are active mobile banking users. Fail in these arenas and millennials – the largest age demographic in the U.S. – will look elsewhere.

Our top choice received a face-to-face visit at a local branch. Because even though there are options to set up accounts online, we wanted to do it in person. A physical presence in the community was important to us. Having our questions immediately answered in person is something we want. In other words, there needs to be a balance of bricks and clicks.

A seamless omni-channel experience is essential for financial institutions to attract and retain customers. Millennials want a positive and easy experience whether they’re looking at a screen, talking on the phone, or visiting a branch. Will we be stopping at our branch every month? Definitely not. But it’s nice to know we can talk to a friendly face to get good advice on some of the major financial decisions we have coming up in our lives, like buying a house and (gulp) having a baby.

Even as bank branches are declining across the U.S., the brick-and-mortar shops still have a place in the world. Many are just evolving from large, vaulted-ceiling caverns on the corner of Main Street to more economical, tech-filled spaces. Recent articles might grab your attention with headlines like “The End of Banking as Usual” and cite survey results like “39 percent of consumers 18 to 34 would consider switching to a branchless bank.” And while that might sound alarming at first, I read that kind of information as “three in five millennials find a branch essential.” And it’s not like that 39 percent will actually bank at an all-digital, branchless one.

I considered wearing the same pair of socks two days in a row just this morning, but I didn’t. To be fair, though, that’s probably because I got good in-person advice from my new wife. Thanks, Liz.