“Get ’em while they’re young”: Mutuals banking on youth to safeguard growth

Youth banking trends: Acquiring customers of tomorrow, today provides an overview of youth banking opportunities and offers insights into current product innovations that are important for financial institutions if they are to attract younger customers (Lo 2014, p.2).

The text is authored from the point of view of an independent observer, Rebecca Lo, a Senior Industry Analyst from COBA’s Research and Advisory team. COBA is an Association of Mutual Banks, Building Societies and Credit Unions in the Customer Owned Banking segment (COBA n.d.). This purpose-specific, formal report is part of the research service that COBA provides to its member institutions in order for them to compete against their main competitors – the major banks. The title of the research article Acquiring customers of tomorrow, today highlights the strategic importance of the youth market to these financial institutions in order to safeguard their future growth.

The research is not an opinion piece but rather provides an objective view of the opportunities available to member organisations. It employs statistical based, quantitative research to examine the youth banking market and the scope for improvement, and qualitative research to identify examples of what institutions are doing to meet the social and digital trends we see today.


Instagram and Pinterest are hugely popular among marketers looking to communicate with, and engage a young audience (Lo 2014, p.8).

The report is broken up with the use of sub headings and begins by providing background information and the current “state of the game” (Lo 2014, p.2).  This section reveals that there is significant scope for mutuals to increase their market share and relevance among younger consumers (Lo 2014, p.2). An understanding of the different needs and aspirations of this market segment from other groups is crucial in order to attract these members at an early stage of their lives, thereby ensuring their lifelong support and loyalty (Lo 2014, p.3).


CBA remains a key market leader in the youth market, due largely to many of its "gamification" initiatives including the hugely popular Coinland and Dollarmite accounts (Lo 2014, p.10).

CBA remains a key market leader in the youth market, due largely to many of its “gamification” initiatives including the hugely popular Coinland and Dollarmite accounts (Lo 2014, p.10).

Examples of real life initiatives undertaken both in Australia and overseas are also provided to reveal a variety of creative approaches used to connect and engage with the youth segment. For example, the report explores the Commonweal Bank’s Coinland initiative, which is an online game targeted at young children helping to develop financial literacy skills in an animated world (Lo 2014, p.10).  Another example provided is UBank’s use of Pinterest to promote a “hip image” and to humanise the brand and make customers feel connected to it (Lo 2014, p.8).

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UBank’s ‘Utopia’ and ‘Our People, our culture’ boards present images (or pins) of its head offices and staff during key events throughout the year such as Harmony Day and Valentine’s Day (Lo 2014, p.8).

While these case studies provide a valuable resource full of potential ideas to Marketing departments who are chartered smarty-pigwith the responsibility of strategy and product development, the report does not critique why some initiatives were more successful than others. For example, ANZ’s SmartyPig account, which incorporated the game dynamics of rewards and points into helping people save for specific financial goals, was unsuccessful. However, no direct conclusions are drawn in the report as to why this may have been the case, particularly given the success of CBA’s Coinland, a very similar initiative with comparable objectives. An understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of previous initiatives would guide marketers in the implementation of their own campaigns to meet the needs of the youth market.

It may have also been useful to examine developments in other service industries and how they are meeting the challenges presented by this market segment. Reference could also have been made to other research completed in this area and testimonials for what lessons have been learnt by those who have undertaken such initiatives. Finally, the report could have been enhanced by addressing the challenges of implementing such strategies, including postulating ways of sharing costs and experiences given the limited resources of COBA’s member organisations compared to the major banks.


Reference List:

COBA n.d., ‘Overview’, COBA, accessed 31 March 2015, <http://www.customerownedbanking.asn.au/about-coba/overview>.

Lo, R 2014, Youth banking trends: Acquiring customers of tomorrow, today, COBA Research, Sydney.


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