19 February 2009

The Perfect Gen Y Branch

Your job is to design the perfect credit union branch for 18-25 year olds, and the sky's the limit. How do you equip it? How do you make this place as appealing as possible for this group?

My temptation is to think of recent successes in retail design. Take the Apple Store's hands-on, help yourself, kick the tires, roaming cashiers/geniuses approach. Consider the U.S. Army's recent arcade/virtual immersion approach to recruiting. Mix in some neat features like Starbucks' "Now Playing" initiative. Free Wi-Fi? Makes sense, right? Extend the branch to the outdoors, recognizing that this group appreciates open air bistros just as much as they love all-night Rock Band marathons in dungeonous bedrooms.

Think about Lowe's/Home Depot's regularly scheduled "do it yourself" demonstrations. Have car dealers bring by their newest youth-targeted vehicles and accessories for test drives. Let them build their own cars virtually on large monitors, huge touch-screens, or computer stations. Let them see how adjustments to each build will affect their monthly payments, total cost to own, etc. And don't limit these demonstrations to financial products and services...have community groups come in to talk about upcoming service projects. Have musical groups perform. Make the place a cultural center. It's a crazy idea, but it might work.

Deposits? Withdrawals? Why do these transactions require human interaction? Use interactive kiosks that allow members to help themselves. Think "self check-out". Branch personnel are there for transaction assistance, in-branch demonstrations, and loan services. In essence, employees are there to help members help themselves. Hands off until requested by the members to do otherwise.

Then, realize that these people don't want to be at your branch anyway...and that many of these investments will be all for not. Make sure that everything you do in branch, you can do online, and cross your fingers that somehow, some way, you pick the perfect combination for your field of membership.

This post isn't to claim that I know what the perfect Gen Y branch is...because I don't. This post was to get a discussion started about this topic. Honestly, I want to be wrong because the above ideas are over-the-top, and potentially impossible to justify financially. What would make up your perfect Gen Y branch? (I feel a snarky Ron Shevlin comment coming soon) What would make your office stand out from a crowded marketplace eager to attract this large group of consumers?

Thanks in advance.


Jenna Rowland, CFMP said...

Great thoughts! I think you are on to something here...and while some of the ideas may seem a little "pie in the sky," I also believe that there is validity to many of the ideas.

According to the Generational-Targeted Marketing Group 2007 study, "GenY have been influenced by their brand-conscious Boomer parents and were attracted to brands at an early age and remain loyal today. They associate brands with companies that stand by their products..."

If it is not possible to create the perfect GenY branch, then maybe it is possible to create the perfect GenY brand?

Matt, the Credit Union Warrior said...

@Jenna You're so right. In all honesty, the best way to attract young adults is through their parents. Targeted branches are great, but this generation is heavily influenced by their parents in regards to financial service choices.

The key would be finding a way to appeal to parents, while maintaining a brand that makes this generation feel like they belong.

Jimmy Marks said...

What's the phrase? "Not a sermon, just a thought".

Gen-Y has been let down, for the most part, by their parents (sorry, Mom) and their education system (sorry, Mrs. Brown). I think what Gen-Y needs is for someone to start filling those gaps for them. A branch that's focused on making Gen-Y smarter about money while giving them the best means to manage that money? That's my dream. I fail to understand plenty about finance management, but asking someone at my CU is how I learn.

I don't know that I agree with a teller-less CU, but I could see one with fewer tellers and a smaller building. Doing more online? That's great. Maybe as a give-away for signing up for three services, you give them a USB-scanner for remote deposits? Maybe you make it so they get to enroll in a "keep the change" type program automatically, or give them $.10 back on debit card purchases? Online statements and email/mobile alerts? I'm a big fan of that *cough DIGITALMAILER cough*.

But let's really talk turkey, here: I think Young and Free needs about three more US States to take root and become its own CU. They're technologically ahead of the curve, they already appeal to their market, and they could - quite legitimately, I think - get there.You want a perfect Gen-Y brand? One that has every chance at growing up with the generation it serves? I think you should look no further.

Tim McApine said...

Jimmy, did you just call me a turkey?

I am not so sure the branch experience will matter in the future. I would much rather see credit unions investing in improving the online experience. I have been into my credit union once in the last year to get a new debit card. Apple Stores are cool because there is actually products to touch and feel. Credit unions, not so much.

The web experience needs to evolve and keep pace with other online apps that everyone is using (not just Gen Y). Think Facebook, Twitter, etc. where it is dead simple to sign-up, access and use.

All of the PFM providers are talking white label all of sudden, so I suspect, if credit unions are bold and courageous enough, the online banking experience should improve in the near future.

Mix remote deposit, simple account activation, online chat, collaboration in some form or another, price and feature comparisons like Progressive, and product reviews all together. That would kick a fancy storefront to the curb!

I wonder if having a personal representative that is your 'friend' that you can put a face to a name with an avatar has any merit? I think people want more of a sense of do-it-yourself with the ability to ask for help when they want rather than sitting across a desk and feeling subordinate.

Add in education. Imagine an easy online education series or webinars or self-directed study that once completed qualifies you for a discount or a bonus.

As far as Young & Free being its own credit union - wow, that is definitely not in our master plan. We want to be as far from the regulators as possible! We want all of the partner credit unions to do that heavy lifting. However, we are really interested in making the platform far more than just a marketing gimmick and to provide real usable value.

Dustin said...

How timely... We just started talking to a local high school about an in-school branch. I'm thinking one of two directions: one is the upscale night club look with bean bag chairs, low lighting, a teller counter and ATM tucked into the back, and free drinks(soda and bottled water) for members during lunch time. I love the idea of bringing in car dealers and having events (Battle of the Bands by WSCU) at the school.

The other direction is more of a student lounge (think the Red room on American Idol) with lots of comfy couches, great lighting, and a roaming "genius" to help answer financial questions and process transactions.

Just some thoughts...

Laura Baker said...

I know you don't want to hear this, but as a member of Gen Y, I have always disliked going into branches. The only time I have ever gone is when I feel that I really have to talk to someone about my situation. So the idea of a kiosk wouldn't really work for me. If I can do it from a kiosk at a branch, I'd rather do it from home.

I would love my credit union more if they made it so I never would have to see them again.

Also, although Apple stores look great, I strongly dislike the roving cashier approach. When I just want to go in for something quick (like a keyboard cover for instance) I just walk in, pick one up and then I stand there until someone walks over to me when I really just want to get out.

If I do have to go into a branch, though, free coffee would be nice. Yes, I know that's unoriginal, but I love free coffee.

Christian Mullins said...

It's a tough one, because I wouldn't think they'd want to be in the branch if they could help it (agreeing with Tim). For Gen Y that have to come in, the perfect branch is one without lines, that doesn't look like it was built before 1995, and with an employee that can answer their question both efficiently and to their satisfaction.

All the rest (TVs, Coffee, WiFi, etc) is window dressing that they'll take advantage of once, maybe twice (unless there's a soda dispenser in the lobby)... and only if there's a line.

Christian Mullins said...

Aw man, I didn't see Laura's comment before I posted. I stand by the soda dispenser over coffee, though if a soda dispenser is installed, coffee should be a given.

jodit said...

I'm thinking inviting, relaxed atmosphere, fun. A yes on the self service, but really why go to a branch unless you "need" to do something in person or need to speak with someone - information? education? advice? relationship? to "check em out in person", cause I hope I can get all of that on-line. Perhaps to find out if I trust this institution (especially good in these times) that is why an oldie like me goes to the branch. And since Gen Y asks Boomers like me, perhaps this helps. And branding - so important to Gen Y, but a big problem at many institutions.

Ron Shevlin said...

Here's my picture of the perfect Gen Y branch. You owe me big time for giving you this idea.


Anonymous said...

Hey Ron! That's so cool! I remember, I was sitting right next to you in the Crowne Plaza Times Square last Oct when we saw a demo of that branch! And who could that be, quoted at the bottom of this company's info page?

BTW, Ron, awesome quotes and insight from you in that Banking Tech News on why the Canadians keep kicking our butts in online banking adoption.

DustMan said...


That describes my branch. I only go to a branch when I have to take something there for work. With direct deposit, ATM, online banking, mobile banking...etc. etc. etc. who needs it.

I love the pic. of the iPhone, kudos Ron. Even though I have Verizon, I still love the online experience, and the more I can do on the run, the better. An easier to use app that stears me away from the lines and mess at a branch...sign me up!

Kris Wickline said...

Check out goamplify.com. Branch/retail experience that you describe and strong online capabilities to boot.

Matt, the Credit Union Warrior said...

@Kris - Can you share any results with us? How has the site been received? What have you done in the physical branches to appeal to this market? Has it worked?

Glenn Paster said...

Hi Matt,

Great presenation on Thursday at EasCorp regarding Marketing and Capturing the Gen Y audience.

We are located directly across the street from one of the largest state colleges in Massachusetts. I am meeting with my President next week to begin a strategy in capturing the markets of students, faculty and staff.

Again, great job.

Glenn Paster
Director of Marketing and Biz Dev
Seaport Credit Union
Salem, MA