I was recently invited to speak at an event for financial services businesses about the “financial generation gap” – the industry-wide concern that an entire younger generation is financially disengaged.
I was born in 1977, which is where the idea for this title came from: apparently that’s the tipping point between the generations, so if services like mortgage lending and wealth management don’t radically change their models, they will die out before their customers (my generation) do.
This idea that everyone born from 1980 onwards will never own a home or have sufficient savings is of course an over-simplified, lazy media scare; but it’s rooted in some worrying facts.
More to the point, what can a PR man possibly offer to solve the problem?
I’m certainly no economist – I can’t unravel the effects of austerity politics or neoliberalism – but I do know a thing or two about building bridges to disengaged audiences.
Many of the UK’s young adults have switched off from financial services because they simply feel that mortgages, savings and pensions are not relevant to them. The onus is on the banks, be they traditional high street or fintech challenger, to make their products and services accessible and important to the emerging generation of customers.
Of course they can’t do this on their own. If we exist in an imbalanced economy in which a growing swathe of the population is simply too skint to think about home ownership or retirement, then this is a fundamental social problem.
I’ve always said there isn’t a social issue on earth that can’t be addressed by education, and in this case I’m very proud of the work we did a few years ago with the NGO Aflatoun to campaign for better financial literacy teaching in UK primary schools.
There’s still a long way to go, but Government and the education sector are doing their bit to improve young people’s understanding of money: how to earn, save, budget and invest. The financial sector needs to lend some of its PR campaigning power to the same cause.
Thanks to Codehouse for hosting the event, and thanks to Shiv Malik and Ed Howker for their book “Jilted Generation: How Britain Has Bankrupted Its Youth.”