How Community Banks Can Attract Generation Z With Financial Lessons

Financial education today is boring, unengaging and ineffective. To reach the younger generation, community banks need a solution that is gamified, mobile, and viral. At Zogo, a company started by Gen Z'ers, we built a financial literacy app to do just that.

Four years ago, I was forced to attend a one-hour financial literacy workshop at my high school. The teacher walked in and started droning on: “Today, we’ll learn about budgeting, saving and investing…”

Most of my friends dozed off or started talking to each other. Some were playing on their phones under the table.

At the end, I was handed a flyer that said something like, “Open an account and get $20.” I don’t even remember the name of the bank that provided the lesson, and I’m also pretty sure I saw students using the flyer to build paper airplanes.

Needless to say, I didn’t walk out of that class very interested in the world of finance. But what if it had been completely different?

How Financial Literacy Efforts Could Be Better (And Bearable)

Instead of having a teacher talk at me for an hour, my friend shows me a gamified app in the hallway on his phone that he has been using to learn about personal finance and can trade the pineapples he earns in the app for gift cards.

Since I am curious about the pineapples and gift cards and stressed about my finances (as 78% of Gen Zers currently are), I download the app on my phone and start learning in a matter of minutes.

Rather than listening to a lecture, I learn about finance through bite-sized personal finance lessons. Each lesson has five quiz questions at the end. If I answer the questions correctly, I get a few pineapples.

One more lesson, a few more pineapples. It feels just like a game! Then my friends start competing on the leaderboard to see who can win the most pineapples. I use the app whenever I have a free minute — in the car, in the hallway, in my living room, you name it.

And the whole experience is brought to me by my local community bank. Their logo is on the screen each time I go into the app, and some of the modules even teach me about the benefits of joining.

But, obviously, that’s not how financial education works today.

Where banks and credit unions are going wrong:

Every year, community banks invest millions sponsoring financial education in the classroom with the intention of building brand awareness among younger generations.

But is it really that effective?

Financial concepts (401ks, IRAs, 519…) are so boring for young adults. To sit in a classroom and pay attention to a lecture for hours can be monotonous and, at the end of the day, seem irrelevant. I know this because I was one of them, just a few years ago.

When I got to Duke University, a couple of friends and I decided to tackle this problem with one of our university’s world-renowned behavioral scientists. The solution we found? Gamification — a.k.a. pineapples.

First, we built the learning experience on a mobile app for smartphones, where Gen Z spends most of its time.

Second, we broke down complicated financial concepts into bite-sized lessons to accommodate this generation’s short attention span and busy schedules. Our 20 categories and 300+ lessons allow users to choose the topic most relevant to them and learn at their own pace.

Third, we embedded gamification where users would earn points (in the form of pineapples) as they complete these lessons. They could redeem those pineapples for rewards, such as gift cards to popular retailers like Amazon and Starbucks, or deposits at the community bank that sponsors their experience.

Why Financial Institutions Should Care

Marketing has always been about connecting with your audience in the right place and at the right time.

Big Idea:

Years ago, presentations in schools may have been effective. But, young people today are spending the majority of their time on their phones — and if your community bank is going to be successful, you’ll need to adopt new strategies that connect you to the next generation.

Nearly four out of five smartphone users have their phone on or near them for all but two hours of their waking day, according to a 2013 study by International Data Corp. Among Gen Z these numbers are even higher: 95% of Gen Zers own a smartphone, and 78% of them consider their phone to be their most important device for going online, according to Snap Inc.

The oldest Gen Zers are approaching their mid-20s this year. This generation is just starting to make their way into the adult world, and with it they’ll bring their own beliefs, habits, desires and preferences.

And the majority of community bank customers are past their prime borrowing years, well into middle age or older. While this core market is undoubtedly important for your business, it’s important to ensure that your institution is also looking toward the future.

Is your institution ready to bring these young people into the community bank movement?

As Gen Z ourselves, we know how to engage this demographic. We know how they think, act, and make decisions.

A year and half ago, we built Zogo — a gamified financial literacy app that helps financial institutions engage and attract Gen Z. Over 75 financial institutions have partnered with Zogo across the country to engage, attract and acquire their next generation of customers — and deliver financial education more effectively. Our app has gained over 100,000 young users who have completed more than two million mini-lessons on the app.

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