Want to Know the Ins and Outs of Gen Y? Go Straight to the Source

Recent industry Gen Y survey data sheds light on what factors influence parents and young potential members to select and open credit union accounts.


So much advice is focused on reaching the coveted Gen Y demographic that it makes your head spin. With all this static, what is actually worth listening to?

A Recent Member Survey Provides Insight into Reaching Gen Y

In an effort to collect credit union Gen Y member data, Callahan’s Internet Strategy Consortium conducted a survey of 18,901 online members from 14 different credit unions during October 2008. Approximately 2,147 of these respondents fell between the ages of 18 and 30. The focus of this survey was to determine how younger members and their parents interact with, and perceive, their credit union.

Some Key Takeaways from the Survey:

Respondents under the age of 30 were asked what age they were when they opened their first account at a financial institution:

  • 30% opened their first savings account between 14 and 17, while 20% opened theirs between 18 and 21. 43% of these accounts were opened under the age of 14.
  • 43% opened their first checking account between the ages of 14 and 17, while 41% opened theirs between the ages of 18 and 21.
  • When parents were asked the age at which specific credit union products were appropriate for their children, their responses mirrored the actual ages at which Gen Y respondents opened their first accounts.

When asked what factors influenced their selection of financial accounts, nearly 60% of Gen Y members selected parents. Branch location (30%), reputation (23%) online banking (22%), and low fees (22%) rounded out the top five.

  • The influence of parents decreases sharply as individuals move through their 20s. In fact, by the upper 20s, online banking, friends, and range of products and services all eclipsed parents as factors that influenced financial account selection.

When Should Products Be Marketed to Young Adults & Parents?

The survey results suggest that credit unions should target the parents of children between the ages of 14 and 17. This demographic very often defers to their parents for financial decisions and are most likely to open their first accounts a few years before, or slightly after, they turn 18. Intuitively, the results of this survey ring true. Teens begin to make adult decisions and take on real responsibility for the first time after they enter high school. A young adult will need to open a financial account out of necessity, if they don’t already have one by the time they get their first part-time job or start driving and need to get a car. There is also an opportunity to target younger individuals with debit cards, credit cards, auto loans, student loans, and deposit products once they begin to face these transitional life events:

Experiences such as getting a car, working a part-time job, graduating from high school, preparing for college, entering the full-time workforce, and moving to a new area, all signify specific opportunities for credit unions to reach out to young potential members with a targeted message or product.

Relationships formed after the age of 16 through the late twenties (financial or personal) will play a huge role in guiding the future actions of younger individuals. Make every effort to ensure that your credit union reaches out to Gen Y and their parents during this formative period of their lives. With each passing year, people weave an increasingly intricate financial web that becomes more difficult to break into as someone grows older, unless you have a very specific and relevant message.