An Ominous Future Awaits The Big Banks

Among the young, the biggest U.S. banks are not only hated, but are considered almost irrelevant

Mar 15, 2014 at 2:00PM

Source: Flickr / State Farm.

The Millennial generation is the largest in U.S. history, making up approximately one-third of the current population. That presence dwarfs the seemingly ubiquitous baby boomers, a contingent that encompasses only about 25% of the country's inhabitants.

It's no wonder that businesses are constantly trying to figure out what these young people, aged 18 to 34 years, really want. Recently, Scratch – a specialized team inside Viacom – released the results of a three-year study concerning Millennials and how their attitudes will affect various industries. The Millennial Disruption Index held bad news for banking, which was judged to be the most at risk in the near future from the poor impression the sector has made upon the youngest of consumers.

Dislike, to the point of irrelevance
Compared to categories such as household goods and discount retail, banking was given the highest score, meaning that the sector is at great risk of being disrupted significantly because of its lack of importance to Millennials. Of the 10 least-liked brands, four belonged to the biggest U.S. banks: JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM), Bank of America Corp. (NYSE:BAC), Citigroup (NYSE:C), and Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE:WFC).

What is worse is that these young consumers have no brand loyalty – one-third of respondents said they would consider switching banks in the next 90 days – and discern no differences between their own and other banks. Fully 73% are looking forward to new financial offerings from the likes of Google and Apple, rather than from the big bank they currently do business with.

A wake-up call for banks
This is a harsh predictor of the future of banking, certainly. What, if anything, can banks do to court this financially fickle crowd?

Another study sheds some light on this issue. The Financial Brand notes a survey showing that 45% of Millennials currently using a bank also use non-bank products as well, such as prepaid debit cards and payday loans. Their biggest concern? Fees. Millennials want predictability; they want fees to be easily understandable. They don't want surprises – and they definitely don't want overdraft fees.

Big banks are beginning to respond. Bank of America, after months of research, is now offering a new product called Safe Balance, a checking account with a flat monthly fee of $4.95, no overdraft charges, and no paper checks. JPMorgan offers a prepaid debit card called Liquid, which also costs $4.95 per month, but doesn't charge a fee to open the account, or reload the card. Wells Fargo seems to have no current offerings, having discontinued its own prepaid card as of February 4 of this year.

Indeed, there seems to be a dearth of financial products that appeal to Millennials, particularly among the big banks. This is unfortunate, since those financial giants have the wherewithal to develop the very products that these consumers want – and will lose out on possible long-term relationships when young consumers migrate away when their needs are not met. Millennials have spoken, and banks need to listen, or suffer the consequences.

Sick of big banks?
Do you hate your bank? If you're like most Americans, chances are good that you answered yes to that question. While that's not great news for consumers, it certainly creates opportunity for savvy investors. That's because there's a brand-new company that's revolutionizing banking, and is poised to kill the hated traditional brick-and-mortar banking model. And amazingly, despite its rapid growth, this company is still flying under the radar of Wall Street. For the name and details on this company, click here to access our new special free report.

Amanda Alix has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

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Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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