I started my company while I was a college student, swimming in technology; I could literally run my business from my phone in the hall between classes and have everything available at the touch of a button. Well, nearly everything. The big exception was . . . banking.
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As I quickly learned, when you're used to handling everything digitally, a trip to the bank can really slow you down.
Fortunately, things are changing. I believe that the bank of the future will look very different from banks today, and my fellow millennials are helping to speed this change along. What’s driving this change? Expectations and frustration.
Three generations compose the U.S. workforce today: baby boomers, Gen X and millennials -- and as of 2015, millennials have become the largest group. Why is this important? Because millennials represent a lot of purchasing power, so our preferences matter.
We don’t want to adapt our habits to fit the rigid way that banks operate today; that’s not our style. Instead, we expect banks to support our lifestyle. If everything else is on my phone, why can’t my bank be? Why can’t getting a loan, mortgage or credit card be as easy as plugging a new service into a Google Apps account?
According to the Millennial Disruption Index -- a three-year study that surveyed 10,000 millennials -- my generation is generally frustrated with traditional banks, and one-third of us think that within five years we won’t even need a bank. The study also found that almost half of us believe tech startups are going to change the way banking works.
I’m inclined to agree. Tech disruption in the banking sector is not some fuzzy future possibility -- it’s already happening.
Financial technology (FinTech) companies like Mint are forging ahead down this path. Sign up with Mint on your phone and within minutes you'll have help managing your bills and analyzing your spending patterns, and figuring out what credit card to get. For tech-savvy millennials, user-friendly yet powerful services like this are clearly attractive.
Other FinTech firms focus on areas like payments and money transfers. For example, nTrust allows users to securely manage and instantly move their money in the cloud, whether those dollars are going to a friend paying the bill at a restaurant or a family member travelling abroad. If you give millennials the choice to instantly transfer money for free by phone, versus paying a bank for a transfer that will take hours, it’s obvious which option we’re going to choose.
As millennials embrace these powerful new FinTech services, traditional banks are realizing that they need to get in the game or risk being left behind. No surprise then that we have seen several recent examples of financial institutions partnering with fintech companies.
For example, Santander UK partnered with two tech firms to create the KiTTi app, which makes it easy to pool money with your friends for things like vacations and team fees. In October 2015, three major banks invested in Kabbage, an Atlanta-based FinTech firm that helps small businesses open a line of credit. Nor are these partnerships confined to the United States or Europe: In January 2016, Alterna Bank partnered with a startup in Vancouver, BC, called Lendful, to provide simple online access to consumer loans of up to $35,000.
These partnerships aren’t just financial institutions and FinTech companies working together to provide new services. I believe that we’re seeing the "bank of the future" being born.
I also believe that millennials and companies like mine will come out on top, with financial services that are more aligned with our expectations -- in other words, fast, digital and versatile. Meanwhile, the FinTech companies that best provide these services will thrive if they can continue to innovate and set the bar for tomorrow’s banks.
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I suspect that the big banks will also pull through, thanks largely to their deep pockets. But they will need to evolve much faster by partnering with FinTech firms or building their own teams to drive innovation, or perhaps doing both.