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Industry - Finance
Generation Y
Succession Planning
Talent Development
Scary Stats

The Frightening Facts of Finance

In 2010, OCBC, a bank in Singapore, conducted research with more than 1,000 Millennials (1982-1995), revealing that young people felt neglected by and disengaged from financial providers. As a result, OCBC rolled out FRANK – a new kind of bank.

In 2010, OCBC, a bank in Singapore, conducted research with more than 1,000 Millennials (1982-1995), revealing that young people felt neglected by and disengaged from financial providers. As a result, OCBC rolled out FRANK – a new kind of bank. 

The FRANK concept is a marked departure from OCBC’s traditional branch design. The store is designed to be hip, stylish, and trendy. It is modeled after shopping experiences that young adults are familiar with, such as shopping for a gadget or fashion item, allowing customers to browse, touch, and ask questions about the products and discuss their banking needs. 

The FRANK name stems from the phrase “frankly speaking,” and is intended to convey honesty, sincerity and simplicity. OCBC’s decision to focus on young consumers comes at a time when the financial industry is being challenged to evolve from every possible angle. Consider these facts: 

  • As consumers, younger generations don’t trust financial institutions and are gravitating to spending and saving via mobile apps instead of traditional banks; 
  • Population aging will likely effect financial markets because of its expected impact on saving rates and the demand for investment funds; and 
  • Baby Boomer retirements have driven up the need for financial management, however the industry is simultaneously aging and unable to service that growth. 

The financial industry as a whole –financial planners, banks, credit unions, insurance brokers–is observing dramatic shifts in consumer behaviors and demographics at the same time it’s observing dramatic shifts in workforce behaviors and demographics. 


Since 2013, XYZ University has celebrated Halloween by reporting on the scariest workforce stats and we felt it was important to spotlight the finance industry this year, especially considering these industry stats: 

  • Millennials are set to inherit $30 trillion over the next 30 to 40 years. 
  • More than half of Millennials don’t want to spend more than an hour getting financial advice and the overwhelming majority would prefer to discuss finances with their spouse, parents or friends over only 14% who prefer a financial advisor. 
  • Millennials are more likely to use mobile banking than older demographics. 
  • Industry-wide, 65% of all bank employees are older than 40.

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Over the past eight years, a parade of banking scandals have erupted around the world. This certainly hasn’t helped the financial industry recruit talent among the Millennial generation, which expects and demands employers be more transparent, responsive, and honest.   

Equally, if not more damaging is the fact that few financial institutions followed OCBC’s example and prepared for demographic shifts. Few institutions prepared for the impact of technology, changing consumer behavior, or the aging of the workforce.   

The graying of the financial industry has become a prevalent, overlooked problem. The marketplace and workforce are changing more drastically than ever before, and without young talent, most institutions will struggle to keep up with these industry-changing trends.   

With finance and insurance representing $1.4 trillion of U.S. gross domestic product, we can’t afford to ignore this situation any longer. The finance industry is too large and influential to base everything on hope; we must take action. Every financial institution must prioritize and plan for the future.   

We can, and must, do better -- for our economy, our quality of life, and for future generations. 

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.


Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.


Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.


Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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