Magazine article American Banker

To Reach Youth Markets, Banks Seek the Advice of Experts: The Young

Magazine article American Banker

To Reach Youth Markets, Banks Seek the Advice of Experts: The Young

Article excerpt

For advice on what young people want from a bank, First Bank of Tallahassee, Fla., knew it was no use asking its board.

"Looking around our boardroom, everyone is in their 50s and 60s," said F.C. Nixon, president and chief executive officer of $84 million-asset First Bank. "We knew that there was a whole generation of customers who grew up differently than we did, and that we needed different ways to attract them to the bank."

So the bank created an 18-member young business advisory board, staffed mostly by recent college graduates who work in the area.

Members of the new board tell the bank what financial products they need, and what they expect to need in the future. New products are presented to the board, to gauge how well they will be received by young adults in town.

Though youth boards are rare, banks turning to niche groups for advice is not, according to Marilyn R. Seymann, president of M One Inc., a Phoenix-based bank consulting firm.

She said banks are using advisory boards and focus groups to gain insight on customers who are not represented by the traditional board.

"Most bankers are smart enough to realize that if they want to get at the younger generation, they need to find out what they want," Ms. Seymann said. "Youth boards could be a natural step."

First Farmers and Merchants National Bank, Columbia, Tenn., has taken the idea to an even younger group, establishing a high school advisory board. But the goal is the same.

"There is a clear generation gap, and we are trying to overcome that," said Nancy C. Bohannon, senior vice president of $537 million-asset First Farmers. "We are interested in their reactions to our advertisements, as well as our existing and future products."

First Farmers has an advisory board in each of the four counties it serves. Each board consists of about 12 students, all nominated by teachers at the local high schools. …

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