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Financial Products Must Continue to Change to Serve Gen Y

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 2/11/2015 Kali Hawlk
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Older generations have been trying to figure out Millennials for years now. But as a member of Gen Y myself, I feel like we're really not that complicated. We're just different, and perhaps more likely to change and adapt thanks to the world we grew up in; a world that has changed and adapted to new things more quickly than ever before.
Technology progresses as an exponential rate and our parents -- and even some members of Gen X -- may be more skeptical of this rapid progress and prefer to trust in solid institutions they feel are tried and true.
But Gen Y are digital natives, and place their trust in innovative companies that are as technologically-savvy as they are. And thanks to experiences like coming of age in the Great Recession, many Millennials cultivated a deep distrust of those solid institutions that, as we see it, played an active role in immersing us all in years of economic downturn and a terrible job market.
As someone who works in a technology-oriented financial startup, I get a front-row seat to some of the very antiquated elements of the financial industry. Some of these companies seem to willfully cling to the old way of doing things while thumbing their noses at the idea of progress and change.
New technology is viewed with skepticism. Young clients are looked down upon or patronized.
Of course, that's not every company in this space who offers a financial product or service to consumers. A number of brands are doing things differently and finding innovative ways to serve a demographic that's finally emerging from a mountain of student loan debt and ready to get serious about their personal finances.
Companies like MassMutual, who would absolutely fall into the category of businesses that Millennials do not trust, appear to be seeing the writing on the wall. The insurance giant has invested hundreds of millions into new projects designed to figure out what works for the next generation of consumers.
CapitalOne is doing something similar with their bank-and-cafe mashups, 360 Cafes -- which provide a Millennial-friendly space for online banking customers to come in, grab a coffee, and talk to someone about their savings accounts.
These are the same brands who recognize that members of Gen Y have a desire to learn and understand how to better use their money in a way that aligns with their values and priorities. They recognize that Millennials are engaged and excited to try new products and services coming from technology-focused companies; that Millennials want transparency, flexibility, and authenticity.
Smaller, more personable brands are also winning out -- and in the long run, may have more success than big companies coming from the old-school financial world because there's no ulterior motive in play.
Banking solutions like Simple and Moven cater to younger generations who want everything on the go, convenient for them, and technology-driven. PayPal Credit is attracting more and more Millennials who want to use credit and are turning to alternative credit services that offer clear, flexible terms and the ability to divide larger purchases into predictable equal monthly payments. XY Planning Network is the leading organization of fee-only financial planners who specialize in working with Gen Y clients, and all the advisors in the network are fiduciaries, require no asset minimums, do not sell products -- and work virtually with their clients.
All these companies inherently incorporate technology and transparency into their services. While it's nice to see that some of the old guard of financial institutions are trying to change, there's still an issue of trust, a question of, "what's really going on here?" Simple, Moven, PayPal, and XY Planning Network represent a number of different facets of the financial industry, and they all are driven by a desire to actually help the clients they serve.
The products and services of these companies, and many others like them, are transparent. The offer is clear (and it's even a little flexible depending on your needs, not theirs). What you see is what you get.
For some reason, most of the financial industry has been slow to change and uneager to figure out new ways to serve the next generation of consumers. They'd prefer to stick with old-school ways of doing things, methods that worked just fine for previous generations.
But that's the thing: Gen Y isn't like our predecessors. We're not all that complicated, just different. And the financial products and services that are willing to change and adapt to function in a technology-driven world where personable and transparent business win out will be the ones that thrive.

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