Texas bank reaches out and connects with the next generation of customers
By Judith Sears
When several local small-business owners started bringing their children into management positions in their businesses, executives at HomeTown Bank in Galveston, Texas, sat up and took notice. Their future customers are rapidly coming into their own financially, they realized.
“Many of the millennial generation are in the process of taking over those businesses,” points out Allan Rasmussen Jr., senior executive vice president of the $582 million-asset community bank.
Rasmussen, who serves clients of HomeTown Bank’s Friendswood branches, had already noticed an influx of young families into the bustling suburban enclave bordering Houston. “Our Little League T-ball division has exploded with young kids,” he notes.
Assets: $590 million
Retail locations: Seven
Recognizing the need to build relationships with the up-and-coming generation of customers and entrepreneurs, the bank explored forming a local networking group for young professionals and future community leaders at the Friendswood branch. The group would target individuals from approximately 25 to 35 years of age and would provide an informational platform for speakers and topics of general interest, such as an upcoming local sales tax vote.
Community interest has proved to be strong: To date, HomeTown Bank has hosted two well-received lunch events for young professionals, with 16 people attending the first lunch and 44 the second.
Then the bank followed up the lunch events with a banking survey, soliciting views from about two-dozen of those younger, mostly millennial-generation customers about general banking topics. The survey responses confirmed widespread observations about younger customers’ banking preferences: mobile use is going up while online banking is down.
“Everything is going mobile,” Rasmussen observes. “That’s where the focus needs to be.”
Amusingly, even the process of sending the surveys accidentally demonstrated the millennials’ preference for mobile. HomeTown Bank initially sent the post-meeting surveys via email with a PDF attachment. To respond, recipients had to print out the form, fill it out offline and send it back. No surprise—the bank received only three responses.
“We forgot who we were dealing with!” Rasmussen laughs.
HomeTown Bank quickly switched gears and used an online survey development tool to send questionnaires that could be answered on mobile devices. That effort received a 100 percent response. “That just underlines the importance of communicating with customers using the technology they’re most comfortable with,” Rasmussen concludes.
Yep, mobile reigns
Although mobile usage is growing, one thing appears to be staying the same: Like their parents, younger customers want a personal relationship with their banker. The first question on HomeTown Bank’s survey asked respondents if a trusted banking relationship was important to them.
“I don’t think any of us knew what the answer would be,” Rasmussen says. “But the overwhelming majority of the answers was yes. Even though speed and having mobile access is important, they want to have someone at the bank they can call with questions and to get advice.”
Interestingly, having a personal relationship with a community bank supports younger customers’ desire for speed and convenience. Customers can become overwhelmed with the volume of information available online, some of it contradictory. Being able to make a quick call to a banker they trust they see as a good way to eliminate inaccurate and irrelevant information and to zero in on what’s most relevant to their situation.
“They may be juggling 10 things on their phone, but a relationship is important. That fits into the community banking industry,” Rasmussen observes.
HomeTown Bank believes the networking outreach is bearing results and intends to continue sponsoring the networking group on a quarterly basis. “Millennials are going to manage their banking differently than their parents,” Rasmussen says. “We want to make sure we’re ready and get their ideas.
HomeTown Bank in Galveston, Texas, surveyed several of its younger, mostly millennial-generation customers about banking. Here is some of what the bank found.
How important is a banking relationship to you?
How often do you use Internet banking on a desktop PC?
Do you think a bank has an obligation to get involved in the community?
How often do you use mobile banking on your phone/tablet?
- Being on a first-name basis of both regular customers as well as their family members. … A bank that takes the time to think outside the box in lending to fit situations. Not just cookie-cutter mentality.”
- “A first-name basis, prompt and informative.”
- “Effortless with online banking and apps.”
- A local bank where I know the manager and staff by names, the location is close to work and home with an easy-to-use banking app for money transfers, bill payment and daily account management.”
- “Friendly/personal yet efficient in various mobile applications.”
Judith Sears is a writer in Colorado.