Meet Seth. Seth is a composite of millennial habits, traits, attitudes and expectations. If you don’t know Seth very well, it’s time you’ve met.
Within minutes of waking each morning, Seth reaches for his smartphone and begins to interact with his world which is filtered through a variety of social apps, news feeds and text streams. Making some educated guesses on his behavior based on Goldman Sachs’s survey data. 
Seth most likely begins with Snapchat to connect with friends, then he likely moves on to Twitter before checking with Amazon Alexa for a weather update and to see how his local teams did. All of this without use of TV, newspapers, telephones or other communication devices of yesteryear.
It’s not just a perception, millennials are definitely glued to their smartphones. More millennials (77%) own smartphones — and spend more time on them (over two hours a day) — than any other age group, according to a 2014 report that examined the behavior of more than 23,000 adults, and was released by Experian. Smartphone use is up among all groups as well. Consider that from 2011 to 2016 the percentage of Americans who own smartphones jumped to 77% from 35%, according to Pew Research Center. In addition, Pew found that more than one in ten Americans are “‘smartphone-only’ internet users – meaning they own a smartphone, but do not have traditional home broadband service.”
Seth’s omnipresent smartphone is heavily integrated into his day. He’s not just using it to communicate. Seth is summoning transportation, watching movies, shopping and ordering dinner.
In fact, Seth probably interacts more with his phone than humans.
Nearly four in 10 millennials (39%) say they interact more with their smartphones than they do with their significant others, parents, friends, children or co-workers, according to a recent Bank of America survey. Similarly, Deloitte’s annual survey on smartphone usage captures powerfully how smartphones in particular have become central to consumers’ lives:
So the question becomes, what else is Seth doing on his phone all day?
The majority of Millennials (61.2%) say they most prefer to do their banking with mobile apps, and 69.1% said they’d done just that during the previous week. In addition, 82.7% had used a mobile banking app during the past month, according to an MFour survey of 1,000 millennials. Mobile was the most preferred banking method across all racial and ethnic demarcations, age groupings and income brackets. The groups most likely to make mobile banking their first choice were Hispanics (71.1%) and Millennials with incomes of $75,000 or more (65.5%).
And it’s not just banking. Mobile platforms continue to drive development at most online brokers.
Seth will likely never see the inside of a bank or brokerage branch office, except maybe to use the free notary public services for some out of date paperwork process like a loan refinance.
Adapting to the Digital Financial Life
Based on our work with clients and analysis of consumer trends, we define today as the era of the Digital Financial Life. This era needs to fulfill consumer expectations to take ownership of their financial lives completely through ubiquitous technology. These consumers exhibit characteristics specific to their era:
- Comfortable, confident understanding of living digitally, especially as it relates to an ability to view and manage finances.
- Autonomous in decision making. Willing to receive advice but preferring complete control of their financial life and decisions.
- Empowered (and desiring empowerment) by an ability to see their financial life holistically and clearly.
For financial firms targeting millennials, it’s crucial to provide innovative Client Experiences – including information and functionality. The entire experience should be consistent from a desktop to a smartphone, to a tablet to a digital assistant.
Millennials’ favorite apps provide a good model for determining what these consumers expect. The library of apps with high functionality has created a new level of expectations. Consumers shopping on Amazon or Zappos apps have the ability to see a massive menu of products, execute transactions, see their accounts and maintain a live history. Spotify enables them to listen to any song imaginable instantly. Snapchat and Facebook integrate information from other social accounts, consolidating Tweets and Likes and all kinds of personal information. All of it works seamlessly and effortlessly for consumers.
These expectations carry over to financial services. These consumers want an experience on par with using Amazon or Netflix – they value efficiency, speed and convenience. All their information should be accessible in real time and transact on any device, anywhere in the world – securely. They want to be able to conduct transactions, use self-service tools and have the option to interact – but not necessarily speak – with an expert. Many millennials in fact prefer interacting with an expert via social apps or chats rather than speaking to a live person.
As smartphones increasingly are the central hub for most activities in consumers’ lives – especially millennials – the burden is on financial institutions to adapt their customer experience to serve their changing expectations.
Click here to find out how Wealthsqope can help your organization adapt to the new Digital Financial Life and transform your digital client experience.
 CNBC, 5/10/17  Marketwatch, 6/21/16  MFour Millennials Insights Project