African Americans and banks: It's complicated.

African Americans and banks: It's complicated.


It’s how financial institutions refer to consumers who have no checking or savings account. Those who have an account and interact with payday lenders and other alternative financial services are called “underbanked.”

There’s lots of research connecting unbanked and underbanked to poverty. In other words, consumers with stronger financial institution relationships are generally more financially secure. This because they have access to affordable credit, savings products and resources.

At least a quarter of American households are unbanked or underbanked, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. And nearly half of African American households are unbanked or underbanked.

Why the disparity? According to CEB Iconoculture research, the primary factors are access, assets and attitudes.

Access, assets and attitudes.

Bank branches are generally less convenient to African American consumers (MagnifyMoney Research on Bank Branch Presentation, February 2016). There are 40.6 bank branches for every 100,000 people who live in majority white counties in the U.S., compared to 32 branches located in majority African American counties.

Then there’s the issue of wealth. African American families on average have less household income with which to work. A study released this year by Demos found that African American two-parent families have half the wealth of white single parents. Specifically,

  • The median two-parent black family had $16,000 in wealth.
  • The median single-parent white family had $35,800 in wealth (two-parent white families had $161,300).

These factors and more prompt African American consumers to be more likely to manage their personal finances with little or no outside help, according to CEB Iconoculture research. When asked why they prefer a DIY approach, African American respondents were more likely to point to the following reasons than the total survey audience:

  • My finances are simple (41 percent of African American respondents agreed versus 34 percent of all respondents.)
  • I don’t have much money to manage (35 percent of African American respondents versus 25 percent of all respondents.)
  • I can’t afford personal financial services (24 percent of African American respondents versus 19 percent of all respondents

Three ways banks and credit unions can help the unbanked and underbanked.

How can banks and credit unions connect to the underserved market? Flip the challenges and follow consumer values.

  1. Promote mobile banking. Mobile banking can help underserved consumers gain more access to financial services, according to an FDIC study. In addition to added convenience, mobile banking can give consumers greater control over finances. Alerts and tracking tools make it easier to avoid fees and track finances. First banks and credit unions must convince consumers that it’s safe to open an account online, which has thus far proven challenging.
  2. Become a trusted advisor. Trust is the foundation of every healthy relationship and imperative when money is involved. When it comes to financial services, African Americans consumers have practical expectations, according to CEB Iconoculture research. They are: do a good job managing my money, provide transparency, security and stick to the products and services that I need. Finally, demonstrate success.
  3. Accentuate the positive. The values most positively differentiated for African Americans compared to all U.S. consumers can provide important insights. They are belief, individuality, ambition and growth—ostensibly individual achievement and growth. African American Millennials tend to be more optimistic than their peers, according to a study by Richards/Lema and the University of Texas, Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations.

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Millennials find clever ways to finance life.

Millennials find clever ways to finance life.

Young, cash-strapped Millennials are leaning on their parents for help today. Still they’re not letting old-fashioned barriers like credit scores stand in the way of big purchases. Meanwhile, their affluent counterparts are using robo-advisers to build their next eggs.

Millennials aren’t the first generation to tap the Bank of ‘Rents. But they’re particularly sensitive about the handouts, according to CEB Iconoculture research.

Forty percent of young 20-somethings living away from home after school receive an average $3,000 annually from their parents, per a study reported in the New York Times. Those who live in the city get almost $1,000 more a year in support than those who live in rural areas.

Parental support varies by career pursuits. For example, right-side brainers tend to be more needy than left siders, according to the research. Of those who regularly receive financial assistance:

  • 53 percent work in the arts and design world
  • 37 percent work in healthcare
  • 30 percent work in blue-collar jobs
  • 29 percent work in personal services

No credit? No problem.

When Millennials do need credit, they’re not letting a little thing like credit score get in the way.

A pilot program launched by Fair Isaac, the company behind FICO, lets consumers with no credit history use utility bill payment history instead. SoFi and Float are also rewriting lending rules, enabling young adults to apply for emergency loans and mortgages without the benefit of credit history.

Float bases its lending decisions on bank transactions for the two past years. This lets credit newbies get into the game and saves Float the expense of pulling FICO data.

Millennials build nest eggs with algorithms.

Millennials are investing differently too, thanks to plucky internet startups and trusty algorithms.

For as little as a few bucks a month, online companies like Stash and WiseBanyan enable investors to start building their nest eggs.

Stash invites users to learn how to invest in themselves by selecting companies that complement their lifestyle and aspirations. They even have examples of investors who might look like you—the activist, the techie, the globetrotter and the trendsetter. Each persona includes a tidy sample portfolio.

$1 buys investors a seat at the table at WiseBanyan, where basic accounts are free and clients upgrade to fee-for-service only when necessary. Like Stash, the content is very accessible and easily digestible. It’s investing for the every man.

Millennials will find a way.

Whether scraping together enough money to pay the rent or planning retirement, Millennials will find a way. For brands to connect, they have to first understand the financial challenges Millennials are wrestling with. Younger Millennials (22-29 in 2017) are in the midst of quarter-life, reflecting on student loan debt, career choices, relationships and zip codes. Older Millennials (30-39 in 2017) are confronting marriage, parenthood and homeownership. Some have even flipped the script with their parents, providing them financial assistance.

Now, get plucky—Millennial style. Don’t expect them to be shoe-horned into traditional products and services. They’ll look elsewhere. Think convenience, flexibility and practicality. And if it can be accessed via smartphone, all the better. Stymied? Go to the source for inspiration. Host a brainstorming session with Millennial staffers or customers. Start by asking them what financial issues keep them up at night and advance to solutions.

Interested in more on the financial marketing front? Subscribe to our free quarterly newsletter, Marketing Statement.

Marketing Statement - First Quarter 2017

How's that 2017 marketing plan working out for your brand so far? Does it lean into social media? Does it leverage the many new features Facebook launched in 2016 to further connectivity—like live video, 360-degree photos and recommendations? There's still time to bedazzle those tactics. (Bright shiny objects below.)  It's (still) all about the customer experience—in good times and especially in bad times. A Pennsylvania healthcare system shows how to make the most of highly emotional, high performance customer opportunities.   

4 social media trends that are changing insurance marketing. From year to year, most insurance products stay the same, but there's one thing that does change: the way they're marketed. What does 2017 have in store?

Facebook was busy in 2016. Here are the CliffsNotes. For Facebook, every year brings advancements and enhancements—and 2016 was no different. With a strategic goal to make the world more connected, the Facebook team added new functionality, created new technology and worked to improve features that already exist.

A hospital system with a money back guarantee. Highly emotional, high performance opportunities are the stuff customer loyalty is made of, according to McKinsey studies into the retail banking industry. A Pennsylvania hospital system is putting this strategy to work in healthcare with promising results.

QUICK study

The green that's keeping Millennials up at night. Young adults fret about finances—especially building a sufficient nest egg in which to retire comfortably, according to a Schwab Retirement Plan Services study. It's the number-one reason Millennials lose sleep at night.

Zelle me all about it. Banks and credit unions are backing an open social payments platform in hopes of competing with the likes of PayPal, Venmo and Square. Like its competitors, Zelle lets consumers send money to friends or pay for goods and services at the touch of a smartphone app.

What motivates young people to save for retirement? Crow's feet. Researchers at Virtual Human Interaction Lab recently discovered a powerful tool to compel consumers to plan for retirement—aging. After meeting their aging avatars, college-aged subjects saved more than twice as much for retirement than those who did not.

Hey Gen X. This bank's for you. It seems every bank wants Millennials. But when Louisville, KY-based Republic Bank & Trust built its digital banking platform, MemoryBank, it was focused on an often overlooked generational cohort—Gen. X. Because peak earning years. 

SHARPEN the saw

You can depend on social media to change. Often. What's an industrious but insanely taxed marketer to do? Read our free whitepaper on the nine social media trends impacting your online performance, for starters. It's a quick read but rich with key insights to evolve your social strategies for optimum brand engagement. Download now.

START a conversation

Share the Marketing Statement. Tell two friends. And so on.

Hospital system backs patient experience with refund policy.

Hospital system backs patient experience with refund policy

Patients increasingly want the same level of customer service at the hospital that they get at the Genius Bar, according to McKinsey & Company research.

Respondents said that great customer service was just as important to them in non-healthcare and healthcare companies alike. Other qualities that ranked as important for both were delivering on expectations, making life easier and offering great value.

Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania is on board. Earlier this year, the hospital launched a system-wide money back policy on patient care—with no-questions asked, no strings attached and no red tape applied. Patients can even download the Geisinger ProvenExperience app to set the process in motion.

Dissatisfied with your post-op meal? The finance department bungled your payment schedule? Difficulty scheduling tests? Encountered a rude receptionist? Felt neglected or burdensome? All of these patient experiences and more qualify for reimbursement under Geisinger’s policy. The only caveat? Refunds can only be applied to co-payments and deductibles.

“We want to make sure we not only have the right care that is high quality and safe, but we also want to make sure our care is compassionate, dignified and delivered with a lot of kindness,” Geisinger President & CEO David Feinberg told the Washington Post.

Seizing highly emotional, high performance moments.

Highly emotional, high performance opportunities are the stuff customer loyalty is made of, according to McKinsey studies into the retail banking industry. Researchers found that routine transactions, like buying traveler’s checks, do little to create an emotional bond with customers. But critical moments, like awaiting a response on a loan or releasing a check from hold, can forge deeper, more meaningful (read: profitable) relationships.

After a positive experience, more than 85 percent of customers increased their value to the bank by purchasing more products or investing more of their assets. And more than 70 percent reduced their commitment when their problem was not resolved to their satisfaction.

Geisinger processes an average 122 refunds a month stemming from appointment scheduling to access of care and billing concerns. Refunds have ranged from $20 to a couple thousand dollars. Meanwhile, customer relations are improving. According to CEB Iconoculture research, communication between patients and patient advocates has increased nearly 25 percent.

This will likely bode well for the system on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) Survey front. The survey measures patients’ perceptions of their hospital experience and publishes results quarterly for all to see.  Respondents are interviewed six weeks or less after discharge—plenty of time for Geisinger to process a refund request.

For more on healthcare marketing trends, sign up for our monthly edition of the Brogan Healthcare Checkup.

Weekly Recap - December 9, 2016

2016 continues to be a big year for Instagram. The platform reached more than 500 million Instagrammers and debuted a shiny new interface. And they aren’t stopping there. This week Instagram announced an update to the comment section. Now users can like comments or disable them all together. Turns out, Instagram is also a platform of choice for influencer marketers. In fact, 87 percent cited both Instagram and Facebook as the most important platforms for influencer endeavors. Why? Because according to HubSpot, it takes about one tenth of a second to understand a visual scene. Read on.  

DETAILS, please

Does your brand have an Instagram account? Users can now like and disable comments. See here.

8 new stats about influencer marketing campaigns you need to know. Interested in utilizing influencers, here are eight things your brand needs to know.

How do you decide what type of content to use in your digital marketing strategy? The answer? It lies in the brain. See here.

Meanwhile back at the RANCH

Instagram: 2016 year in review. 2016 was another very big year for the visual-based platform. In case you missed it, we present Instagram’s most snap-worthy moments of 2016.

4 social media trends for insurance marketers. From year to year, most insurance products stay the same, but there’s one thing that does change: The way they’re marketed.

THE Topic of conversation

Instagram. Learn how your business can use Instagram to build brand awareness and increase engagement. Download our free whitepaper "Why your business should be marketing on Instagram."


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4 social media trends for insurance marketers.

4 social media trends for insurance marketers

From year to year, most insurance products stay the same, but there’s one thing that does change: The way they’re marketed.

What does 2017 have in store? Let’s take a look at the trends.

  1. Social media (still) requires great content. The best brands know this already: Social doesn’t work without engaging and valuable content. To better understand this scenario, think of social media as a car and content as the gas that fuels it. Now more than ever before, channels will need that content. They’ll need visuals, videos, blogs and more to really move the needle and see results.
  2. Millennials double tap into social media. On social media, Millennials are connected—very connected. When they’re making decisions, anything from what book to bring on vacation to what brand of car insurance is best, they turn to these connections. And according to CEB Iconoculture, this impulse is relevant to every aspect of how young people handle personal finance.
  3. Social media can help agents unlock policyholders’ life events. There are a few key life events that get people thinking about insurance. Going to college. Graduating from college. Getting married. Having a baby. Buying a house. Or a new car. Retiring. These trigger events propel consumers to consider their insurance needs. And coincidently, these are the same events that are usually shared on social media. When local agents have a solid relationship with their customers, it’s possible they’re Facebook friends. (They might even be friends offline, too.) In a non-invasive way, this lets agents see what’s happening, so they can keep their insurance needs at the top of their mind. It helps them understand the best time to reach out, or the time a consumer may be most receptive. Using social media, insurance companies can listen for and act on life events, reaching the right customer at the right time with the right message.
  4. For customer service, users turn away from social media and toward mobile apps. In March, there was a study that surveyed 1,700 adults in the U.S., the U.K., Netherlands, France and Australia. They asked about their customer service interactions with financial services, insurance and telecommunications providers. As it turns out, the percentage of people using social for customer service dropped from 36 percent in 2013 to 29 percent in 2016. Meanwhile, the percentage of people using mobile apps for customer service grew from 22 percent in 2011 to 43 percent in 2013 to 46 percent in 2016.

Keep up with all of the financial service marketing trends, all year long. Subscribe to our monthly Marketing Statement.

Weekly Recap - November 24, 2016

Is Cyber Monday the new Black Friday? While it may be shifting this way, Digiday wants you to be careful when coming across news stories on Facebook and Google. Why? Some fake news stories are causing quite a stir for PR. But good news, this story (or shall we say Instagram Story) is true: Instagram now has live video and disappearing photos and videos. Take a look.

DETAILS, please

The shifting social landscape of Black Friday. What should retailers expect for this year's Black Friday?

Google is beating Facebook in the fake news PR war. When it comes to purging fake news stories Google is taking the lead (and responsibility). Will Facebook?

Instagram launches new feature to Instagram Stories. Live video and disappearing photos and videos have arrived to the platform.

Meanwhile back at the RANCH

Don’t send money this holiday, send them to college. Just in time for the holidays, presents the gift that truly keeps on giving in convenient gift card form. Grandparents take heed.

Everything marketers need to know about paid search. How many times have you searched for something online? How many of those times did you search from your mobile device?

THE Topic of conversation

Instagram. Learn how your business can use Instagram to build brand awareness and increase engagement. Download our free whitepaper "Why your business should be marketing on Instagram."


Like what you see? Share the Brogan Recap.


Don’t send money this holiday, send them to college.

Just in time for the holidays, presents the gift that truly keeps on giving in convenient gift card form. Grandparents take heed.

You guessed it—plastic 529 gift cards that let people contribute directly into kids’ college funds. Shoppers will find them at ToysRUs and BabiesRUs retail stores.They can be bought in fixed amounts ranging from $25 to $500 that are associated with state-run 529 programs, where education funds grow tax-free. 


The card is redeemed by creating a GiftOfCollege profile that directs the money to their 529 plan. The buyer pays a fee for the service, ranging from $3.95 to $5.95, depending on the card's value. There is no fee to the recipient for redeeming the card.

Gifting to 529 plans isn’t a new idea. The Michigan Education Savings Plan made it possible years ago for family and friends to open and contribute to existing plans. You don’t even have to be a parent to open an account so long as you own it. 

It’s the packaging that makes the Gift of College gift card particularly bright and shiny.

It makes gifting to 529s all the more accessible—especially for the technology averse. And because it’s a card and not a bank account, it’s far more tangible. Now grandma has something to stick a bow onto and proffer properly. She can even hide it in the palm of those mittens she’s been knitting for her little darlings.

It will be interesting to see how this packaging twist plays out. Will the cards sell more 529 gifts or simply shift shoppers from online to check out line?

Got a thing for financial marketing? Sign up for the quarterly Marketing Statement. 

Marketing Statement - Fourth Quarter 2016

Look who’s talking money now. Gen We is growing up and growing into bank accounts, credit cards and student loans. They’re approaching finances with eyes wide open, taking a decidedly sophisticated approach to money. And cautious, like their Millennial brethren. The percentage of Americans under 35 with credit card debt is at its lowest level since 1989, says the Fed. How is a financial brand to break through? Tap into their OSD. They’ve got obsessive smartphone disorder bad.

3 ways financial marketers can engage with Gen We. Molded by the Great Recession, young consumers have a distinct attitude toward money. They’re more involved in household economics, lean in for teachable moments and are emotionally engaged in money management.

Millennials and credit cards: a complicated relationship. Millennials are using credit cards more responsibly than older generations, says the Fed. They avoid charging small purchases and revolving debt.

Tech shame or celebrate? Marketing to the smartphone gen. Why you gotta’ be so screen? Brands try to disrupt the smartphone obsessed with varying degrees of success.

QUICK study

Millennials prefer to apply for mortgages in person. When they're shopping around for mortgages, more than half of young adults prefer in-person interviews over researching info on the internet, according to a SunTrust Bank survey of potential Millennial homebuyers. And once they have that meeting, they're often pleasantly surprised at how achievable their goal is.

They save, save, save. Frugal Millennials sock away 15 percent or more of their annual earnings, according to a Sallie Mae survey. And they're not just bolstering their own retirement. 65 percent of Millennials with kids under age 18 are saving for their kids' education, compared with just 50 percent of Gen Xers.

Don’t swipe the small stuff. Are you more emotionally invested in cash purchases than debit? You’re not alone. But because it's painful, the cash purchase is also more rewarding—even more delicious, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Consumer Research.

SHARPEN the saw

You can depend on social media to change. Often. What’s an industrious but insanely taxed marketer to do? Read our free whitepaper on the nine social media trends impacting your online performance for starters. It’s a quick read but rich with key insights to evolve your social strategies for optimum brand engagement. Download now.

START a conversation

Share the Marketing Statement. Tell two friends. And so on.

3 ways financial marketers can engage with Gen We.

3 ways financial marketers can engage with Gen We.

Is it us, or does Gen We rhyme with money?

According to CEB Iconoculture research, Gen We encompasses kids up to age 18 (born between 1996 and 2016) and has distinct and unique attitudes when it comes to their own finances. While most financial marketers leave this audience out of their generational targeting, Gen We is not too young for financial conversations.

Looking to engage? Try these three tips:

  1. Make it convenient.
    Don’t let their age fool you, Gen We is very interested in financial basics. They appreciate financial information, especially when it teaches them the responsibility of managing money. Sites like and Money Savvy Generation have proven to be quite the useful tools for this audience. 
  2. Involve the family.
    While this audience is too young to open their own bank accounts, they are very open with their family about finances. Gen We seeks the advice from their older family members to learn more about costs, budgets and bills. Brands acknowledging this consumer behavior are doing so by providing financial planning strategies for multi-generational families, writing children’s books geared toward parents to spark financial discussion and offering a voice for this generation.
  3. Integrate your media tactics.
    Yes, this audience is very mobile, but they aren’t always on their devices. Like the tactic above, they consult their family, they look at advertisements, get information from websites, blogs and social media. To better reach this target audience, it would be best to diversify your media tactics.

3 ways financial marketers can engage with Gen We.

Interested in financial marketing? Sign up for our Brogan Marketing Statement for more trends and insights.

Millennials and credit cards: a complicated relationship.

Millennials and credit cards: a complicated relationship.

Yes. No. Maybe. Well, it’s complicated. What’s the deal with Millennials and credit cards? Here are four things financial marketers should know:

  1. Only a third of Millennials have credit cards.
    Unlike their older generational relatives, roughly 33 percent of 18- to 29-year-old consumers actually own credit cards, according to Bankrate Money Pulse survey.
  2. Credit card debt has fallen since 1989.
    According to the recent data from the Federal Reserve, the percentage of Americans under 35 who hold credit card debt has fallen to its lowest level since 1989. While this data doesn’t include information on the number of credit cards a person has, it does cast an interesting light on the spending patterns of this audience. For example, this audience is either paying off credit card debt each month, or they aren’t using their cards as much as the generations before them.
  3. Millennials use debit for small everyday purchases.
    Economists studying Millennials’ payment patterns have noticed this audience skirting both cash and credit for small purchases. How? Millennials are resorting to their debit cards for small purchases, due to the fact that it draws funds from their bank accounts. Other payment options include mobile apps like Venmo and PayPal, for the same reasons. The Federal Reserve noted that credit cards are being used for bigger purchases (computers, appliances, etc.).
  4. Millennials are spending with a recessionary mindset.
    Yes, we are out of the recession, but research shows Americans are still spending like they are in a recession. Here is what some Millennials are saying:
  • “I don’t want to use a credit card irresponsibly, and because of that, it’s scarier to use,” she said. “I grew up — I saw 2008 — I saw my dad get laid off. I don’t trust the financial market.” – Rebecca, New York Times
  • “My financial situation is the same as during the recession so I am cost conscious about everything.” -  Natalie, CEB Iconoculture

For more on financial marketing trends and insights, sign up for our Brogan Marketing Statement.

Weekly Recap - August 26, 2016

Maybe it’s the convenience. Could be the added security. Perhaps points play a role. Consumers are ditching greenbacks in favor of swipe or tap. Speaking of tapping, Millennials aren’t the only app-happy generation today. Boomers are increasingly banking by mobile app, according to a recent study. Turns out they were playing all that Candy Crush to master the art of the tap and swipe. About that flip phone you’re saving for junior when he goes to high school? He’s expecting a smartphone. If you give him a smartphone, he’s gonna want a data plan.  

DETAILS, please

Consumers are more likely to swipe or tap than to use cash for purchases. Mobile payment options like PayPal, Google Wallet and Apple Pay are joining old-school plastic in the march toward cash-free commerce.

Boomers are catching on to mobile banking. Millennials have been app-y banking for a while now. Now their parents are beginning to catch on, according to a recent study.

But mom, all my friends have one. The percentage of consumers age 12 to 17 who own smartphones has been growing at a respectable rate in the past several years, according to  

Meanwhile back at the RANCH

You know it’s still summer when your favorite sit-coms are still running re-runs, aka Best of Shows. What’s good for Blackish is good for Brogan. May we invite you to binge on our library of hundreds of marketing blogs for your next great idea? Start with some of the best performing content this year: Pros and Cons of Sub-Branding and Brand Extension, 11 Instagram Best Practices Every Marketer Should Know, 7 Creative Ways Brands Can Use Stop Motion Animation, 11 Reasons Millennials Love Binge Watching TV Shows and 5 Ways Hospitals Can Use Instagram Successfully.


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