Business and society are interconnected and interinfluenced. Businesses react to social moods and movements. Reciprocally, society adopts innovations and solutions suggested by businesses. This constant interaction shapes who we are and how we feel in the modern world. It is a natural process happening across various industries, and finance isn't an exception.
Although the financial sector seems a severe environment for innovations, it can't stay aside from the digital and social changes arising in other niches. It may take more time to incorporate social trends like environmentalism, inclusion, tech-savviness, and mindfulness into the current financial system. However, it's already happening. Finance is going to become more flexible, digital, and inclusive. Fintech startups and challenger banks are bringing it to reality.
The Arrival of Generation Z and Change of Priorities
Until today, the business has been oriented towards millennials. All trends and innovations have been primarily deploying around their needs. Today, the economic focus switches to Generation Z as a new purchasing force that will define the future. Born in 2000 are now turning 21. Frightening, isn't it? Yes, this generation is quickly becoming adults that will shape how the business, finance, marketing, and customer experience will look.
Generation Z differs from millennials by shopping and financial behaviors. They are more mindful of money than millennials and think twice before buying anything. If you want to market to Gen Zers, think about authenticity first. They value it a lot. Unlike millennials, the Gen Zers' purchasing decisions are based on trust and value. They can't endure patterns and don't want to be defined as a category. They look for authenticity and an honest conversation with the brand they buy from. They prefer companies with social and environmental values behind their products.
Most Gen Zers are financially and tech savvier than their predecessors. They expect to see innovative, digital and more convenient ways to manage their finances and build wealth by investing in stocks and cryptocurrency. While millennials were witnessing how many innovations were born, Gen Zers were born alongside these innovations.
They want to be financially literate, wealthier and promote this culture to others. As the voice speaking on behalf of Generation Z, Taylor Price, a 20-year-old influencer and CEO of TAP Intuit, educates about personal finance management in her fun and engaging videos that have already grabbed the attention of the million-follower community on TikTok. She is one of the millions of intelligent young people willing to learn and share their knowledge with others.
DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion)
Diversity, equity and inclusion - these values will define the direction in which the business should innovate and evolve in the near future. Dr. Robert Sellers, chief diversity officer at the University of Michigan, breaks down the distinction between these concepts in a somewhat lighthearted way:
Diversity is where everyone is invited to the party.
Equity means everyone can contribute to the playlist.
Inclusion means everyone has the opportunity to dance.
By celebrating social diversity in the corporate culture, product design, and approaches to services, businesses can move this world to the next level of social responsibility and contribute to achieving sustainable development goals. Hiring talents with diverse backgrounds in terms of age, gender, nationality, religion, and even sexual orientation may help companies create more comprehensive innovations that consider everyone's needs.
We're different in various cultural dimensions, but we still are one whole as a civilization. Brands that support diversity through their marketing, products/services, and social initiatives can reach a wider audience, learn from their diverse customers, and create more inclusive products. For companies, it's a socially responsible way of becoming a market and thought leader.
Inequity still has a place at many financial institutions today, unfortunately. Race, gender, nationality, and age remain the main dividing lines in accessing financial services, especially when it comes to taking credits, loans, and insurance. Struggling to get funding and start their own businesses, social minorities often receive refusals from banks based on their race, nationality, or gender veiled by other insignificant reasons. We should not tolerate discrimination and bias among us and in every business sector, including finance.
If the white economy is the "party," millions of people then have no entrance tickets. Does it mean you have to be only born with a ticket (like race or gender) giving you access to full-fledged financial life? Inequity in financial services is the first thing to be changed for everyone's better future.
It's the logical continuation of the first two social trends. It means that the needs of different groups of society are taken into account, every individual matters, and everyone should have access to various kinds of services and products, especially to those of vital importance like healthcare, insurance, and finance.
The reflection of DEI in finance
Today, we see the emergence of fintech startups that foster financial inclusion. One of the most impactful examples is Hennii, a San Francisco based fintech startup born amidst the financial and economic challenges during the COVID pandemic. Driven by a mission to build more inclusive finance, this team dared to rethink the consumer journeys happening in the current banking system using integrated AI, voice technology, cognitive bots, and other latest tech innovations.
Hennii has presented an intelligent financial assistant that addresses the financial needs of diverse consumers and helps everyone (from Gen Z and millennials to seniors) manage their personal finance in an easy, accessible, and fun way.
Strong Environmental Activism
The environmental problem gains unstoppable momentum, and it finds the reflection in modern marketing, business, and financial solutions. The majority care about what awaits our environment in the future since we have already seen some bad omens, like climate changes, forest fires, floods, and tornadoes. As a response to the environmental problem, many businesses take "greener approaches" to their daily corporate life, marketing, and product design.
Greener corporate life
Many tech companies try to reduce their carbon footprint by encouraging employees and clients to go paperless. With the same goal in mind, some organizations incorporate the policy of switching off electronic devices, especially screensavers on monitors. The reduction of the after-hours work of computers in the office allows significantly decreasing the carbon emissions.
Modern marketing goes green too. While some companies emphasize the "green" aspects of their products in marketing, others contribute to building a more sustainable future by landing the ideas of sustainability and "greener" lifestyles in the audience's minds through their content.
Sustainable digital products
The popularity of sustainable UX design grows along with other "green" trends. More and more companies try to make their products more environmentally friendly. It goes not only about recycled packages and electronics but also digital products. Innovative brands strive to reduce carbon emissions by optimizing their digital product performance, creating lighter and faster loading digital content, navigating users through the product more expertly, and using the dark mode that expands the battery's life.
What about green finance?
Green finance refers to the financial companies and initiatives that positively impact the environment, e.g., resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions or greater biodiversity. Some innovative fintech startups offer carbon accounting products that create openings for industries to access green financing. For instance, CarbonChain quantifies the carbon footprints of companies' trade finance portfolios to identify the transactions that pose the most risk of rising carbon prices.
Marketing and customer experience have changed a lot in recent years. Modern customers don't purchase products or services but experiences, feelings, and memories. Therefore, we witness the emergence of the experience economy that focuses on creating the customer's treasured memories as the primary value. Striving to meet the new consumer needs, brands use state-of-the-art technologies like AR/VR, AI, ML, and biometrics to create the next-gen customer experience - more personalized, accessible, and exciting.
The trend of the experience economy entered the financial areas as digitized banking services, mobile peer-to-peer payments, AI-powered budgeting, automated investing, and saving. Some innovative banks and fintech institutions try to improve their customer experience by offering personalized financial products, services, and memorable engagements to the individual. It is a shift from doing for people to doing with people.
Mindfulness means awareness of the present moment. People across different generations think of their families while working and think of their work while spending time with families. The average person's mind is hustled among the daily worries about money, kids, family, work, and the future. The COVID recession just amplified people's concerns existing before and caused higher stress, even among younger generations. In times of uncertainty, we need to stop the mind for a while and realize our current presence.
Many experienced tech entrepreneurs have predicted that mindfulness will go mainstream during the lockdown. The popularity of mindfulness practices and mobile apps is on the rise. Personal finances are a particularly emotional topic for many consumers since they're worried about money, lack of financial literacy, and entrepreneurship struggles. Considering customer needs and concerns, forward-thinking fintech startups have started incorporating "mindfulness" features into their digital products. The trend of mindfulness may become the ray of light and peace for individuals using modern fintech innovations.
Embracing The Future
We need to embrace changes both digital and social to build sustainable business and finance. By adopting social trends presented above, companies can improve their service delivery and offer solutions that match their customer reality. The future can be different, it can be better for everyone if businesses and financial institutions take action today. The present is here, and the future is near. We all are here, and we're now shaping how the future will look for us and the next generations.