A Millennial Misperception

I have been blessed throughout my life with great teeth and still have all 32 of them. Yes, I am that rare person who has all four wisdom teeth. I have had several small surface cavities filled, but not lost a tooth. A couple of weeks ago, I had a new experience—a root canal! While it was not fun, it was not as bad as I imagined. It was a relief to get it fixed, and I will soon have my new cap in place. I am told that I will be as good as new and will not notice any difference. Knowing many people who have had this done, most have told me that it will be fine. Others have experienced problems with the cap being sized correctly and have lost the permanent cap, thus having to go back for a second try. Time will tell what my experience will be.

It is hard for me to believe that a majority of millennials surveyed indicated that they would rather see their dentist than go to a bank. Really? I struggle to understand that result. Banks do not inflict pain on people and, while dentists try to avoid inflicting pain, they sometimes do. The bankers that I know are all leaders in their communities. They are warm, caring people who are in banking out of a desire to help and serve others. They want to help their communities improve, grow and thrive.

I suppose that some of those millennials simply hate dealing with numbers and believe that bankers only deal with numbers. Bankers today deal with problem resolution. When customers tell their banker what their financial issue is, bankers are readily able to offer a variety of solutions. Are bankers simply failing to properly convey their services to customers? I suspect there is a fair share of that failure occurring.

Could it also be that the millennials’ fear of bankers results from the fact that they were coming of age during the recent financial crisis? I expect that this has quite a bit to do with that fear. Bankers certainly made some mistakes during this period, but most of the ill will should have been directed at non-bank entities. The banking industry’s lack of defining what a bank is allowed the national media to determine that definition, which ended up being any organization or individual that made or arranged for a mortgage loan, appraised, serviced a loan, underwrote secondary market bonds, or rated those bonds. Thus, the term bank or banker received blame for any negative action during the crisis.

It is important that bankers do not forget how their image was damaged, and that they all come together to repair that damage. The millennials are the largest generation ever in the United States, outnumbering the baby boomers by many millions. The very future of the banking business lies in our collective success of educating the public about who bankers are and what bankers do. Our ability to recapture our once pristine image will be paramount to our future success.

Just like time will tell whether my crown fits right and is a seamless change, time will tell whether bankers are able to attract millennials to enjoy the many services that they provide.

– S. Joe DeHaven

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