Nick Siscoe
Jun 25 · 4 min read

My name is Jacob. I’m 18 years old. I haven’t made many big purchases or financial decisions in my life beyond choosing to go to college, and I don’t have the money to do anything substantial right now.

I’ve got a job and make enough money to pay rent and go out on the weekends, but my student loans are piling up, and I keep ignoring this nagging feeling that things are going to get a lot more complicated soon.

Despite all of this, in ten years I hope to be thinking about a mortgage, an auto loan, significant investing, debt financing, and more that I can’t even predict — I spend all of my time focused on supporting myself today and can’t seriously be expected to think much about tomorrow yet. Except, apparently, I can…

My bank is, in fact, expecting a lot from me. They expect that I am constantly thinking about my financial future — and talking to them about it. They expect that I am confident enough to approach them about how to manage my finances. They expect that I have a deep understanding of all of their financial service offerings. They expect that I devote time to figuring out how to leverage their service offerings that are relevant to my future.

They expect that I want or need to utilize their branches. They expect that I know how to utilize their branches without being intimidated. They expect that I understand how to talk to — nonetheless build a relationship with — a personal banker. They expect that the personal banking model that they’ve been using for decades to serve their customers will serve me just the same.

My bank is the same community retail bank that my parents use, but I don’t understand them like my parents do. And they don’t understand me.

I need a bank that meets me on my own terms. One that does the forward-thinking on my behalf. One that does not expect that I have thought about or have even a cursory understanding of the services I need to maximize my finances, both short-term and long-term.

I need a bank that is digital, accessible, customizable, and extensible. One that knows me, understands where I’m coming from, and adapts to my needs rather than expecting me to adapt to theirs. I need a bank that predicts my problems and is available at a moment’s notice to address my nagging concerns. I need a bank that gives me a voice when I don’t feel confident enough to speak up.

They say that millennials switch their primary bank 1.5 times more frequently than their parents, but — to be honest — I’m not even sure how to switch. What would I switch to?

Young professionals (those that “Jacob” represents) are growing up with a retail banking world that feels slow, disingenuous, and unaware.

Although mid-market and community retail banks are rushing to try to keep up with the digital innovations of big banks and fintechs (typically through partnerships due to a lack of internal engineering resources), they are failing to keep in touch with the reason why retail banking has made it this far in the first place. A lack of digital innovation in the personal banking model has left young professionals feeling like their brick-and-mortar retail banks haven’t quite figured it out yet.

The personal banking model is all about relationships — facilitating relationships between the bank and its customers by pairing customers with personal bankers who serve their individual needs. Young people want relationships with their banks. Young people want to know that someone has their back and is doing the future-thinking for them. Young people want a trusted advisor that can guide them through the financial services that they don’t understand or don’t know exist. Indeed, young people still value personal, human interaction (i.e., TurboTax Live, The Next Big Mobile Banking Breakthrough, etc.).

The personal banking model can serve millennials in the same way it served older generations, but there’s a problem: As retail banks move digital, they leave their personal bankers behind. And, even worse: Retail banks haven’t picked up on this problem.

Truth be told, retail banks believe that they are still providing sufficient opportunities to foster relationships with their customers. The reality begs to differ:

  • Consumers see physical branches as a last-resort option. Relationships can’t be formed at branches if consumers aren’t going to branches. Consumers are increasingly viewing bank branches as a backup to digital solutions for their everyday financial needs. As a result, consumers are not as likely to hang around branches to get to know their personal bankers.
  • Personal bankers are increasingly viewed as nothing more than support. Consumers want relationships with trusted financial advisors, but they only view personal bankers as means to accomplish transactional tasks, not advisory ones. 79% of consumers view their relationships with their banks as transactional, not advice-based. Gone are the days of a strong bond between a consumer and the personal banker who oversees his or her finances.

Retail banks are in an existential crisis that can only be averted by making some bold course-corrections.

I believe retail banks have a valuable role to play in the future of banking. In a new, digital banking industry in which convenience is king, millennials are looking for a bit more personal attention. Retail banks know how to build relationships and offer one-on-one attention to their customers; they just need to figure out where to do that as physical branches close in droves. The obvious answer: online.

What do you think — are retail banks doing enough to survive?

Click here to learn about how my new project, Visor, can save retail banking by transforming the personal banking model.

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Nick Siscoe

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I’m an aspiring Product Manager studying at the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management. Check out my life’s Kanban board:

The Startup

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