My generation does not define me: Not just another "m"-word blog

I read a novel recently that described a futuristic society where AR-like glasses identified the personal stats and characteristics of other humans in your vicinity. Almost like a video game—where your health meter hovers delicately over your avatar's head—the novel’s protagonist could identify names and ages, when the person last ate and more, all by glancing at them through her high-tech glasses.

While this all sounds very “Minority Report”-esque, tell me why businesses, banks and service providers are still identifying consumers with similar short-sightedness? Age, as they say, is just a number, and why should we be lumped into a—usually incorrect—generational stereotype?

As I sat in various demos, presentations and sales pitches at the 2017 FinovateFall conference, my running tally for “millennial mentions” went through the roof. In a conference filled with financial technology innovators, I was shocked at how many assumed millennials were some kind of indicator for user experience, viability or future change. Put simply, everyone deserves digital simplicity and the best and brightest new banking products, no matter their age.

In a recent article by Business Insider, Libby Kane summed up my brewing feelings on generational misunderstandings in the following paragraph: "Older generations complaining about younger generations has little to do with the younger generations themselves — it's just the pattern that has played out for the past dozen generations or so, amplified by the echo chamber that is the internet.”

Although I heard very few “complaints” about the millennial generation during the conference, I did hear the word being used as a hook, and worse, as a crutch. Worried the crowd is tuning you out? Drop a quick one-liner featuring the words, “This will help you reach millennials,” and you might just have your cure. There we were again in the limelight, or as Kane describes it, “on the other side of the glass.”

We are experiencing a seismic shift in thinking about and evaluating target markets. Fintechs are doing banks a disservice by positioning their products as “millennial-friendly.” Particularly for the community banks—who are reliant on retention—strategies to reach “new markets” will only be as evergreen as the advancements in technology behind it. Because “millennials” make up the majority of our country now, it’s time to refocus technological intentions on the user. That’s it. The User. No generational misconceptions or assumptions. My mom, my grandma and my 1-year-old niece all deserve the same digital experience. Better yet, my mom, grandma and niece will eventually only have digital experiences to choose from.

If what Jiffee CEO Maciej Stępień says is correct, in 15-20 years, cards will be officially obsolete and we’ll all be using mobile wallets. Cards aren’t obsolete because millennials wished them out of existence. They are obsolete because we have simply evolved beyond plastic payments.

Jacob Jegher, SVP of banking and head of strategy at Javelin, also emphasized the importance of “moving beyond millennials” in his seven-minute presentation on “Practical Innovation: Banking the Boomers.” After citing my grumpy tweet on the overuse of the word “millennial,” Jegher proceeded to describe the equally fertile digital banking opportunities with baby boomers and small businesses. While Jegher’s talk focused on aging boomers, his points on creating new solutions that deliver meaningful and, more importantly, tailored insights ring true across all markets.

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Simply put, younger generations will adopt, older generations will adapt, especially as their financial institutions adapt with them. We are no longer a segmented population with varying digital needs. We all have digital expectations, and our service providers must meet them to retain our business, our value and our loyalty.

To read more of Red Fan’s coverage of FinovateFall, check out our Finovate tab here.

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