Savings in the UK really has become a mixed bag. Some people have more money in their bank accounts than ever before since the pandemic, while others have depleted their reserves and are struggling to make ends meet. For people who are able to save, how they do that is an important topic – especially for younger generations, who may find themselves in unstable employment situations and have less experience than older age groups.

The onus is on banks and building societies to meet the needs of young people, by empowering them with finance-focused knowledge and offering personalized products, services, and experiences.  By doing that effectively, financial institutions (FIs) can gain the trust of younger demographics and will reap the rewards by fostering loyalty and retaining them as customers for years to come.

Younger generations and their savings 

With COVID-19 and its impact came limited opportunities to spend, and as a result, some people were able to save more than usual. For example, British households had built up the second-highest level of savings on record by the end of March 2021, putting away an extra £190 billion during the lockdowns.

And that’s not just older generations contributing to their individual savings. A June 2022 report showed that there were just under 1 million new Junior ISA accounts subscribed to from 2020 to 2021. The report also showed that the average ISA market value at the end of 2020 was just under £4,000 for the under-25 group and £6,366 for the 25-34 age group. This is an indicator that many under 35s likely have a savings goal they are working towards. It could be for a holiday, car, or even their first home, but whatever it is that they are saving towards, banks and building societies can provide them with tools and resources to encourage them to save, and if the customer experience is positive, may eventually be a part of a bigger life journey for those account holders.

But the picture wasn’t necessarily as positive for more vulnerable members of society. Some research suggests that younger generations struggled financially and were forced to draw on their savings. A US survey by Bankrate revealed that millennials and Gen Zers took the biggest hit, with income disruptions disproportionately felt by younger workers.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) reported that younger adults aged 18-34 and the self-employed experienced the largest proportional increases in financial vulnerability – rising by more than 40%.

Despite these statistics, it’s important to proceed with caution: generalizing within and between demographics is risky. Furthermore, opinions vary around diminishing savings, with sources like Aldermore Bank reporting opposing data to Bankrate and the FCA.

Changing attitudes towards finances

Given these uncertain times, there’s an underlying movement by younger people to take control of their finances, expand their knowledge, and be more proactive. In turn, they acquire a sense of security and are better equipped to achieve their targets, whether that’s budgeting more effectively, investing, building up a rainy-day nest egg, or saving for a mortgage deposit.

Meanwhile, the pandemic’s impact has shocked the young into a mentality of economic prudence, with many saying they need to be more financially mindful than pre-Covid. Indeed, Schroder’s 2021 Global Investor Study highlights that people aged 18-37 are more likely to save (52%) than older generations.

There’s also the wider economic context to consider: rising inflation coupled with low savings rates. People are losing value on their savings in real terms, but potentially higher-return alternatives, such as investing in shares, are viewed as too risky by most. The spiraling cost of living is also taking a toll: many individuals have less money to put away each month.

National governments can assist, by incentivizing saving. For example, the UK’s Help to Save scheme entitles low-income individuals to a 50 pence bonus for every £1 they save over four years.

What can banks and building societies do?

Banks, building societies, and other financial institutions have a more powerful part to play, by helping their customers or members to improve financial literacy – knowledge and skills that are seen as increasingly important. By arming younger account holders with information on products, services, and terms like debt management, they’re empowering younger users to better achieve their money-related goals and future-proof their funds.

In Deloitte’s 2021 Digital Banking Survey, about one-third of Gen Zers and millennials said they’d use mobile apps more if educational resources were available. Similarly, Laura Parr the Strategy and Insights Manager of Financial Services for Google Australia & New Zealand, found that engaging and credible online video content resonates with young people, helping them get into better habits and save money.

Banks and building societies can assist younger cohorts in other ways too, by offering personal finance management (PFM) tools – digital apps that leverage open banking and data-driven analytics to collate and store financial information. These platforms give young people a comprehensive picture of their financial health, making money management easier.

PFM solutions also help the young take ownership of their finances, by providing personalized and actionable real-time insights alongside tailored advice that caters to individual needs.

Financially literate young customers with the ability to monitor their money also need high-quality, intuitive, and user-friendly online deposits and savings solutions. As part of that, banks and building societies must enhance the digital banking experience. It’s about building:

  • Humanized, empathetic, and bespoke online interactions.
  • Digital channels that provide high-touch services like financial advice.
  • Seamless interconnected and intelligent experiences across channels.
  • Tailored solutions for gig economy workers and the sporadic nature of the sector.
  • Innovative offerings like automated spending insights.

By providing these, banks and building societies make managing and saving money easier, especially for younger generations who are more open to relationships with digital-only banks. Indeed, Deloitte’s findings show that 28% of millennials and 20% of Gen Zers are likely or very likely to open an account with online-only banks, compared to just 6% of boomers.

The importance of building trust with young customers

Given millennials and Gen Zers comprise over 50% of the global population, it makes sense that FIs should focus on wooing these demographics, by aligning themselves with their values. As more Gen Zers reach working age, this will become all the more important.

By ensuring these financially powerful groups feel confident banking with them, FIs can gain their trust, custom and loyalty. To do that, banks and building societies need to engage better with young people, adapt to serve them more effectively, and communicate with consistency, honesty, and transparency.

Sopra Banking’s tech-forward product suite

Working with a trusted partner like Sopra Banking can help financial institutions improve their deposits and savings offerings. Our flexible and secure solution aggregates customers’ accounts, providing a 360-degree view of their finances. Real-time core processing facilitates personalized offers and Instant Payments, helping people manage their accounts with speed and ease, in multiple currencies.

From a bank or building society’s perspective, our feature-rich account management platform allows cloud, hybrid and on-premise deployment, and adapts to market demands like regulatory changes. Moreover, the data-driven system gleans valuable insights into customer behavior that can inform business strategy and enhance the digital experience.

Our product suite also includes a robust and secure open banking platform, allowing banks and building societies to tap into PFM tools and offer customized services, helping improve the financial well-being of their customers.

Jason Gouk

Major accounts client director

Sopra Banking Software

Alex Yvart

Digital Program Director

Sopra Banking Software