Articles - iPhone, therefore I am; the philosophy of self

Generation Y, or the ‘Millennials’ as they are often called, are those defined as coming of age between 1998 and 2006. They have now completed college, are in the early stages of their careers, and should be targetable for financial services companies; after the initial excitement of earning (and spending), they are getting used to the concept of managing their money, and could be persuaded to start thinking long-term.

 By Tom Murray, Head of Product Strategy, Exaxe
 From a technology point of view, Generation Y is completely different to the preceding generation. Generation X was already adult when technology emerged in its current form, and has engaged with it where it seems useful. Generation Y, on the other hand, was raised in a technology world and its use is embedded in their lifestyle. To them, the smartphone is an extension of their hand, and their very existence is threatened if it’s not available.
 Berkley’s philosophical question, of whether a tree that falls in a forest makes a sound if there is no one there to hear it, is one of the most famous discussions of the philosophy of whether anything can exist if it is not perceived. This begs the question of whether any member of Generation Y exists if their phone battery has gone dead, or have they just gone into a sort of stasis, to re-emerge when the battery has been charged up again.
 Just look at the evidence. Even such a simple thing as attending a concert is not a story to be told afterward, but one to be broadcast before, during and after; tweets about the purchase of the ticket, followed by photos posted of the journey to the event, the actual event, and the return home. One wonders if the individual would feel they attended the event if they hadn’t broadcast every moment. And in fact, the act of broadcasting changes their actual attendance at the event as their concentration is split between the performance and the recording of the performance.
 This is the upcoming generation, very much focused on the self. Therefore, it should be an easy market for the financial services sector; focusing on providing for oneself should be an easy call to a generation whose existence is defined by the self-centred nature of their approach to life. No community-based approach for this generation; risk is what they crave whilst being the centre of attention. So, an industry that focuses on increasing wealth and empowering people to take risk by providing a safety net through financial security and protection, should be well placed to engage with this generation.
 However, the challenge for those in charge of financial services firms, who are mainly from Generation X, is how to understand, and relate their products and services to, a generation that views life in such a different mode. Can we put ourselves into their shoes to imagine the way they view financial services, and what kind of products and services will appeal to them? True, the issue of financial security is similar to all generations, but Generation Y is far less likely to have a job for life. Instead, their working life will be a patchwork of different jobs, experiences, and events that means that they will need more flexible products than the previous generation.
 It is in the services they need, however, that Generation Y’s differences will truly stand out. If they believe nothing exists if it isn’t accessible directly on their smartphone, at whatever time of day or night the idea occurs to them to look for it, it follows that the services any life and pension company provides to support the products aimed at this group must be smartphone centred, and available 24x7.
 Every company that wishes to sell to this generation needs to understand the way that these customers choose to interact with the world, which is very much on their own terms. This means that financial services need to rethink how they approach all aspects of their business, from the type of products they sell, to how they communicate with the customer, how the customer deals with valuations and servicing throughout the lifetime of the product, and what will give them a trusted status in the life of the young person.
 Therefore, all talk of service centric architecture is probably out-dated. Yes, services are required, but the different thinking needed is that the whole eco-system needs to be customer centric. Those financial services providers who manage to make all their activities customer-centric, not just the sales bit, will be the winners in the competition for an increasingly affluent market who are happy to spend money, but must see themselves as the centre of any transaction.
 It requires a corporate mind-shift at all levels to achieve this, and therefore leadership from the very top. Expecting Generation Y to do things your way is pointless; Generation Y only does things its own way.

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