A Gen Z Perspective on the Future of Finance

Four friends are in a heated debate on what credit card to pick as a 20-something. The debate features a 19-year-old, involved in the crypto space, day-trading, and NFT collecting since 2012; another 20-year-old who just earned his real estate license and is a top 10% active user of the Robinhood investment app; a 19-year-old, with no finance or personal investment knowledge, who is regretting her mistake of asking which credit card she should next apply for. And then there’s me, a 21-year-old, somewhere in the middle—really interested in the industry and moderately active when it comes to my personal investments and financial health. 

The conversation goes for five hours with a plethora of different providers discussed, escalating to where I think our next installment of Sunday brunch might be canceled. Two days go by & our friend announces that she has signed up for—wait for it—a company that we’ve never even heard of. She explains that she went rogue because of the benefits and how educational the onboarding process was to her; a five-hour debate for no cigar.

This is a great  representation of how diverse our generation is when it comes to financial knowledge, needs, and priorities. As Ryan Hollister explains: “They’re (Gen-Z) just in a very different spot financially than their parents were in the previous generations. Their view of the world is a lot different… Simply offering them checking accounts and loan products is not necessarily meeting their needs.”

This resonates with our approach to traditional banks and services. According to a survey conducted by PYMNTS, Gen-Z is the least interested in traditional finance with 83% of the respondents stating they are frustrated with the traditional banks and credit unions as they are today. Yet, to this day, we still trust traditional banks and service providers more than neobanks. Studies overwhelmingly show that Gen Z bankers still prefer traditional financial institutions to neobanks and feel more comfortable opening accounts with them. 

On the flip side, there is web3, NFT, and cryptos—an entirely different beast in the world of Gen Z and finances. There are 15-year-old digital artists like Jaiden Stipp that became millionaires overnight with their NFTs. When I was 15, I would not have known what to do with that amount of money. All in all, this got me thinking: How can a financial services provider even begin to address all these niche problems we have? 

To find answers, I went to Current, a FinTech company based out of NYC with a mission to improve financial outcomes for Americans. To this day, Current has 4 million members. The platform provides mobile banking services from checkings to savings, getting paid faster, and everything a traditional bank can do, minus the fees. My friend, Adam Hadi, VP of Marketing at Current, shed light on the questions of how they built a brand that earned Gen Z’ers trust. And with a claim to the most followed financial brand on TikTok, Adam’s word holds weight in this space. Here are some key takeaways from our chat:

1. Tackle core problems first!

Adam: “Getting your core banking, being the place in which you put your paycheck, hold your money, is kind of the center of the financial world…and then you can build spokes off of that.”

Emir’s Take: No matter who you are targeting, there are universal problems when it comes to financial health. Having a card, a secure place to put your money in, we all need them. Once the brand has those tackled, you can penetrate into other services to delight consumers.

2. Financial decisions are hard. Acknowledge that, and simplify it!

Adam: “When you first enter the workforce […] there are a lot of things to figure out […] things that I take for granted just having learned at this point by being around it. You haven’t done that when you’re 18,20, 22—for a lot of people it’s intimidating—so they just ignore it. That leads them to make a lot of financial decisions that are not in their best interest. By simplifying a lot of that, bringing features & tools that typically aren’t available to you and making them not just available but accessible and easy to use, that’s what we are doing for an entire generation.“

Emir’s Take: It is hard for Gen Z to dip their toes in the financial waters. It is really confusing. Admitting that is not wrong; it only builds brand trust. The aim of the service providers should be to eliminate the friction.  

3. Be approachable.

Adam: “We have a brand that feels approachable, relevant; making a promise we can deliver on in the app. […] Wiith Current, what you’re seeing on the surface is hopefully nice and simple & easy to understand. And then, behind the curtain, financial technology is incredibly complex and, again, that’s why it’s not available to your average person.”

Emir’s Take: Create a brand that is authentic, genuine, and welcoming. That’s it. 

4. Build your unique community. 

Adam: “Community has always been a big deal when it comes to finances. […] We can move together, do things together. Community is powerful. It’s inherent in what we do.  Within the creative world, a lot of what we do it’s just based on relationships. That’s kind of hard to replicate because again it has to be real, it has to be authentic, you have to be delivering on that. In many cases, these are relationships that have been around for years […] It’s trust that’s hard to replicate & takes time. We’re the future of banking – that’s where it makes sense to be, the key here being there’s an authenticity to it.”

Emir’s Take: Your people are everything to your brand. Building relationships and nurturing them is what makes your brand different from other players. And trust is crucial for that. If your community can vouch for you and trust you with their money, others will too.

Adam’s TLDR: “Probably comes down to: in marketing, you can’t really fake it. You can’t really fake it for very long. Whether it be the promises you’re making, how you’re bringing in customers & then delivering on customers. You’re not gonna get there. 

Whether it be our actual technology, how we work with creators, it’s all fulfilling reality.”

Word Bank:

NFTs – Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are cryptographic assets on a blockchain with unique identification codes and metadata that distinguish them from each other.

Web3 – Web3 has become a catch-all term for the vision of a new, better internet. At its core, Web3 uses blockchains, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs to give power back to the users in the form of ownership. A 2020 post on Twitter said it best: Web1 was read-only, Web2 is read-write, Web3 will be read-write-own.

Cryptocurrencies– A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that is secured by cryptography, which makes it nearly impossible to counterfeit or double-spend. Many cryptocurrencies are decentralized networks based on blockchain technology—a distributed ledger enforced by a disparate network of computers.

Emir Lise

Emir is the 21-year-old Associate Director of Growth at JUV, a Gen Z marketing agency that is dedicated to empowering youth and diverse voices through partnering with brands. He is currently a student at New York University, majoring in Data Science and minoring in both Business and Innovation & Creativity. Born & raised in Turkey, his aspirations of living in a fast-paced city made him move out at the age of 14 to Istanbul. Desiring more energy, he moved to New York (where JUV’s HQ is at) in Fall 2021.

Other than the work and school, Emir is a research assistant focusing on innovative start-ups in international markets and business strategies to transcend trade-offs. Emir also takes several leadership and membership positions in consulting and entrepreneurship clubs at NYU. Before joining JUV, Emir worked at a digital transformation consulting firm as a Junior Consultant as well as a Transformation Analyst at one of the fastest growing tech companies in the world. His previous work experience in the intersection of tech, innovation, and research revealed his passion for growth hacking, and constantly improving things (yes, everything).