By Ahmed Khidhir

Generation Z (or Gen Z), the demographic cohort following the Millennials, presents a new breed of customers for financial institutions. Born after 1995, Gen Z is the first generation to be born and raised with YouTube, Instagram and Netflix. Unlike Millennials who witnessed the rise of the digital age, Gen Z has never known a world without smartphones, social media and instant access to information. Technologically savvy and highly educated, they bring a new mindset and customer behavior for banks to grapple with.

In order to remain relevant to this new breed of customers, banks have to take note and adapt to the shift in customer habits and expectations that Gen-Z is bringing. Here are three areas in digital banking that are likely to be reshaped by this new generation of customers:

1. Semi-autonomous digital banking

Due to their tech-savvy nature,Gen Z consumers tend to have a very short attention span and very little patience for digital applications that complicate their lives in any way. Gen Z consumers also prefer to use websites and apps that can predict their needs and preferences, and which deliver a personalized service that are tailored to their preferences. According to research Gen Z consumers are 25 per cent more likely than other generations to provide personal information to gain a more predictive, personalized digital experience.

To accommodate this change in consumer expectations, we are likely to see a proliferation of digital banking applications that can provide a highly personalized and semi-autonomous experience to the user. This can be achieved by understanding the individual customer’s habits, preferences and anticipated future needs via sophisticated machine learning and digital analytics tools. Utilizing these insights, digital banking apps can create a semi-autonomous experience by presenting the anticipated or suggested next best actions to the customer. Semi-autonomous digital banking could predict financial and non-financial events such as taking care of upcoming bill payments, suggesting setting up a savings goal for an upcoming vacation, scheduling future payments based on past transaction patterns or suggesting savings or lending products based on anticipated cash flow. Automatically prepopulated with the predicted input data, the customer is only required to either accept or decline the action proposed by the system. This minimizes the effort from the customer while improving their financial decision-making abilities.

Semi-autonomous online and mobile banking apps can create a personalized and frictionless digital banking experience, which is critical in satisfying Gen Z customer expectations.

2. Connecting with the customer on an emotional level

For Gen Z the digital world is primarily not about accessing information and utility, but about entertainment and emotional gratification. This is a key difference compared to previous generations: a study found that the majority of Boomers (72%), Gen X (65%) and Millennials (61%) depend on the digital world primarily to access information, while 61% of Gen Z say their main online activity is entertainment.

Today the majority of digital banking applications are utility tools that don’t create a significant emotional connection with the user. With the proliferation of Gen Z customers, we are likely to see banks more purposefully designing digital banking apps to inspire a deeper emotional connection with the user. The benefits of this can be significant: according to Harvard Business Review, after a major bank introduced a credit card that was designed to inspire emotional connection, its use increased by 70%. Here are three examples of how banks can build emotional connections via digital banking:

  • Adding features that wow their customers. By introducing features that are unexpected, different or ‘cool’ into online and mobile banking apps, banks can build emotional connections with their customers. A great proponent of this approach is Tesla, which adds unique capabilities to its cars such as the dancing door wings that help to create emotionally connected brand enthusiasts.
  • Connecting with Gen Z lifestyle. By integrating non-financial lifestyle experiences that connect with Gen Z aspirations, values, and needs – such as helping the user to find environmental causes and contributing to them – into digital banking, banks can create a more emotional engagement with the customer.
  • A human touch. Although Gen-Z is known to spend a lot of time on their smartphones, studies have shown most Gen Z consumers prefer face-to-face communication. Enabling seamless access to real-life, human interactions via audio and video-chat solutions in digital banking can help banks build a stronger emotional connection with the customer.

3. Experiences replacing marketing banners

Gen Z has grown up exposed to an unprecedented amount of online advertising and developed a strong sense of skepticism and blindness towards online advertisements such as banners. To capture the Gen Z customer’s attention, we are likely to see a shift in digital banking from displaying marketing banners to offering experiences and entertaining interactions to deliver marketing messages. One way of offering experiences via digital banking is by utilizing interactive tools, such as calculators, games, customer feedback forms, questionnaires, or chatbots. These tools can be more successful in gaining the customer’s attention than traditional banners when it comes to educating them about banking products and services.

When consuming digital content, Gen Z is highly video-centric, with YouTube being the favorite website for the majority (85%) of them, preferring to consume content via short, 1-3 minute videos. To better engage Gen Z customers, we are likely to see online and mobile banking apps replacing banners with short, personalized videos to deliver marketing content. This can be achieved by banks integrating dynamic video-building capabilities into their digital platforms and utilizing these tools to automatically generate videos with personalized content, delivered to customers via online and mobile banking.

By offering experiences that use interactive tools and personalized videos, banks can be more successful in capturing the Gen Z customer’s attention and delivering more authentic and entertaining experiences for them.


Just as banks are beginning to understand what makes millennials tick, Gen Z brings a shift in customer behaviors and expectations. Digital technologies and customer expectations are likely to continue to evolve at an increasing speed, and banks are going to be challenged more and more by future generations of customers. Banks that can embrace and adapt to changing consumer behavior and digital technologies will not only survive but also thrive in the future digital environment.

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