Banking, a taboo
Banking, growing up, has been a subject or perhaps a jargon reserved to be understood and dealt with by the elders of a household, men to be more specific. For a teenager to utter the word 'money' or value real money more than the numbers mentioned in his/her maths problems warned a real problem to the parents or relatives.
This would be an early warning of the child losing his/her innocence, being miser-zoned, or breaking into an "overly-matured" category (isre-paka in Bangla) who needs to be remedied to act of his/her age. And effortlessly here, Bangladeshi parents have extinguished the curiosity of children on financial literacy.
Today, we have 21% of the population who have swiftly adopted the change of time in every other aspect except the one they had booked for their parents, managing finances. According to this group, to be financially conscious only meant one who hoards wealth and spends as little money as possible.
Living in the comfort throne
We may condemn the parents for protecting the concept of money in fear of their children only picking the evil side of it, but a lot has to do with the lazy traditional approaches of advertising by financial institutions, who assumed the cool and relevant advertising was limited to the consumer good companies like Pepsi or Pantene alone.
Over the years, our financial institutions have followed a blind product and channel-centric business model, wherein customers were viewed as consumers of the available products and services. Only after onboarding, they are subjected to other relatable services through cross-selling. This product-centric nature of their business has prevented the financial institution from creating meaningful relationships with potential customers, the youth.
Saying it as it is
But here comes the screw, the Gen-Y do not sail the same boat, they believe a career beyond a job is key, staying on trend is crucial to surviving, and adventure exhilarates them. They want to be the captains of their own lives, always on the lookout for bringing a radical shift. As a consumer, they only prefer access to personalized experiences and services that even the big players in the local FI industry do not have the bandwidth to provide or perhaps do not find feasible.
In contrast, a Singaporean financial brand,
FRANK wrapped in the slogan "The New Way to Bank" had successfully catered to the group with its products dripping with the obvious youth appeal. FRANK offers over 100 different card designs. Customers can change the design anytime they want at a fee that ranges from S$10 to S$50, depending on the card design chosen. How cool it would have your favorite character, band or your loved one over your card?
But again, what about local Bangladeshi Financial institutions that do not serve the youth as directly as FRANK?
Financial institutions here do not want to tear between the positioning of "standing out" among their peer group of traditional FIs or "standing up" to disruptive startups. Up until recently, a few Bangladeshi non-banking financial institutions has been bold enough to see what works outside the realm of financial services, and push past what is considered the "ordinary rules" of their industry.
Good financial brands are all about life
A few years back, one of the leading NBFI rented space in Old Dhaka for a day and arranged to catch a kite, food, music, and other amenities for people. The entire event was organized through a customized campaign on Facebook for the occasion. The event was a huge hit on social media and received an incredible response. Lately, youths and brand practitioners are amazed at the daring branding shots of another NBFI who are up to shattering paradigms and pioneering watershed changes in communications for them. For an instance, this 40-year NBFI placed exciting catchphrases in several restaurants of Mawa Ferry Ghat, one of the most popular getaways of youth here. These brands are trying to become part of their lives, without bothering them.
Better financial brands are about a meaningful life
However, the youth of today values meaningful activities that hold profound emotions above everything else, and it is about time, we respect their beliefs instead of bombarding them with short-term incentivized campaigns. This NBFI leaped ahead by turning this active community into a living, breathing brand asset with its brand initiatives every year post its rebranding exercise.
The successful penetration of the Bangabandhu Grandmaster App, the country's first quiz app on the life and legacy of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was a loud and clear message from the youth, that they are here, to change the world like Father of the Nation, and we must not take them lightly. Likewise, other yearly signature programs, like Unsung Women Nation Builders Awards or Prio-shikkhok Shommanona that takes you back to the change-makers of the country have reassured the youth that this brand is here to associate with their values, not just to perform but to ignite passion.The most recent being, the very successful folk-based musical platform called Amader Gaan with 552K subscribers. In its attempt to revive and promote Bangladeshi folk music among youth, everyone associated with it was dumbfounded at how the songs on verges of extinctions are now at the tip of the tongue from preschoolers to listeners across the globe. The platform exclusively features the diverse musical influences and studio-recorded performances by promising singers of the country.
Other side of the coin
Unfortunately, these proactive brands do suffer a lot of conjectures and criticisms at times by the old-school spectators, however, it is the honesty to deliver, the tenacity to persist, and the power to withstand the criticism that can bring a swing. On the brighter note, such initiatives along with the mobile-first branding activities on social media are highly appreciated and have been observed by the peer banks as well. Thankfully, some banks have also introduced co-branded cards with the University of Dhaka, where students can get the most out of their cards with amazing gift vouchers and exclusive shopping, travel, and dining offers. This is a great but late step and leaves a lot of room to excite the youth.
Long drive ahead
Millennials need to establish good credit to secure financial products and services. Because they are making little or no money, developing a solid credit history can be challenging. However, young members are always on the run. They want to apply for accounts and loans via online and mobile, and their expectation is for each service to be easy and take no time. Breaking this barrier to entry may be very expensive.
On the other hand, FIs can turn young employees into ambassadors for the community can bring them closer to people and make them appear less boring and robotic.
While many young people around us have no connection to a financial institution, they often use commerce or payment systems such as Bkash and Nagad, hence, leveraging payment service is a key.
Finally, financial institutions need to avoid posting bland, uninspiring marketing items on their social media sites. Instead, they need to figure out how they can engage young members by understanding what may appeal to them. Recruiting millennials to support the social media initiatives by making them guest bloggers or on-camera spokespersons to encourage participation in online discussions or in-person events may help.
They say it's never too early to teach your kids about money, yet even among millennials with high levels of education and income, financial literacy is low. For years, financial brands have wronged and neglected the youth, assuming the banking choice will be passed as a legacy. With a bit more empathy and a lot more openness to change, financial institutions can welcome them to discover the new, to rediscover the lost, to live unbound.
Afifa Sultana works in a Private Financial Institution