Personalizing Digital Banking for the Modern Age

Personal banking has evolved well beyond the rise of automated teller machines, in-person wire transfers and paper credit card statements. In order to meet the demands of consumers — from Gen Z to baby boomers — and compete with the fintech titans of Silicon Valley, banks need to adopt digital-native strategies. Sure, it can be hard to innovate in an industry riddled with red tape and a stigma of being old and lackluster, but it’s going to be essential to banks maintaining relevance and thriving in the modern world. Jumping on the bandwagon behind JPMorgan Chase — who recently introduced a new voice marketing strategy to provide personalized banking recommendations to consumers — and Wells Fargo — who’s merging old school in-person banking habits with new age AI-powered digital integrations — how can other legacy banks remain competitive and transform for today’s digital age?

Rise of Mobile

Many of today’s financial institutions are legacy banks built for an analog world, however, as human behavior continues to develop in the digital world — one that caters to millennials and Gen Z — they’re forcing a change. One of the biggest adjustments is from desktop to mobile, which banks have started (and need to continue) tapping into, especially if they’re going to compete with fintech power players.

Instant Gratification

Banks struggle to give digital natives what they want most: the economy of instant gratification. While banks provide online and mobile tools that enable 24/7 banking, they need to also consider how to develop other meaningful experiences that take out the in-person hassle of banking, much like specialized banking and fintech apps like Robinhood and Qapital.

Millennials are looking to specialized banking and fintech apps to be the voice of reason and provide this type of advisement in real-time, easily digestible bits. Therefore, financial companies should leverage AI to offer a higher level of personalization and data-backed recommendations. For example, these apps need to be able to tell consumers, “X% of individuals in your income bracket and demographic are saving X amount of money a year, and this is how.” Offering an online personal banker or financial advisor is how they need to move forward. Other instant mobile offerings include easier communication with financial institutions, financial literacy training, wealth management, access to apply for refinancing and loans, insurance, etc. — all via a mobile app.

Every bank is looking to attract younger customers, so their stack might need to be radically changed from where it stands today. Venmo is a great example of a financial company that built their entire brand around being unique, innovative, instant and inherently social. These types of iterations are what will drive the future of banks.

Less is More

Still, legacy banks deserve some credit. While it’s important to lure in the next generation of money makers, banks have the hard task of balancing asks from tech-savvy consumers while continuing to service the older generations that have driven the economy for decades — those that aren’t used to the technological expectations of today. As a result, banks need to find solutions to the challenge of calibrating messaging, services and benefit statements that match up to both generations’ expectations.

Instead of offering every service at every location and hoping it will increase foot traffic, financial institutions should cater specialized offerings to their specific audiences. Millennials don’t seem to care if they need to use multiple apps or providers for different services, as long as they’re successful in getting the job done. In fact, according to a Bankrate survey, millennials use an average of four different banking mobile apps. This is where all banks should learn from fintech companies, like Mint and Square, and stick to a specialized value statement rather than becoming a compilation of hodgepodge services.


Our client-partner John Hancock is a great example of a 150-year-old company being proactive to connect and better serve digital natives. The three themes of this piece are the rise of mobile, instant gratification, and less is more — this is exactly why they created Twine. Twine is an app that helps users collaborate on working toward savings goals. Since many consumers view financial management as boring and complicated, especially the younger generations, Twine brings an element of excitement and dreaming to saving. The program acts as a bank account, but also gets you to think about what’s important by setting up milestones such as “save $10,000 for a trip to Italy” or “save $30,000 for a down payment on our first home” or “save $20,000 for our wedding”.

We helped create the content for the launch of this app. To eliminate the “boring” stigma often associated with banking and saving, we created fun, short-form lifestyle video content. Each piece of content was designed with three goals in mind:

  1. To inspire consumers to dream.
  2. To poke a little fun at antiquated ways of saving.
  3. To differentiate that Twine is a cool, hip, relatable brand while also being backed by 150 years of financial support from John Hancock — a key element that separates them from other start-ups.

This combination of heritage and longevity with continuous evolution for the modern marketplace will help set up John Hancock for another 150 years of success.

Ultimately, banks tend to be risk-averse (understandably so), so it can be hard for them to commit to being an early adopter. However, in order to grow a larger consumer base, legacy banks cannot ignore digital natives, especially as they continue encroaching on the economy that’s dominated by Gen X and baby boomers. And, believe it or not, they’re actually in a good position to do so.

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