The Robin Hood generation: Anticipating the new era for financial services

Understanding the new generation of consumers when it comes to money is pivotal for the financial services industry to remain relevant, says Dominic Walsh, managing partner, Hero, consulting & advisory.

In Oliver Stone’s 1987 film “Wall Street”, Gordon Gekko famously declares “Greed, for lack of a better word, is Good”. While this counterpoints the underlying theme highlighting the perils of capitalism and dramatically showcasing the pitfalls of greed, only recently have we seen this sentiment reflected in a shift in our societal values regarding wealth.

For the generations that are either about to enter adulthood or have done so in the last decade, economic turbulence, banking ethics enquiries, climate change and a global pandemic have become the norms. As a result, the role of money and the value they place around it is changing significantly. The analogy of “Fools Gold” rings true as they come to terms with what they believe is the hollow promise of overt wealth. While they are confident with money, they are looking hard at new ways of banking and more ethical ways to use the money they do have.


Picture an era where a person would go to the bank with cap in hand and ask for a loan. The system was based on authority and complexity. The Australian Millennial Report in 2020 identified that 35% of respondents will look at an alternative to traditional banks in the future. They are looking for a style of banking that is simple and empowering. As we are seeing with the booming fintech sector in Australia, disintermediation provides an opportunity for direct relationships and an ability to bypass “traditional” banks. For example, Bankify is one platform that allows for greater personalisation and social engagement speaking directly to millennials who are looking for immediacy and relevance.


A recent Accenture study highlighted that 64% of millennials believe they understand investments as well as a professional. This highlights the shift from reliance on financial institutions to savvy independence. They want to be treated as a partner in financial management rather than a customer. Gen Alpha are taking this a step further, as a generation of digital banking natives, who have instinctively learned to track and analyse their own behaviours to enhance their relationship with money. Going even further, apps like Nestlum’s are allowing children to learn about digital money in a fun and engaging way from an increasingly young age.


Aligned with these changes, we are also seeing a move away from overt wealth towards a values system based on overt ethics. LS:N recently highlighted that 83% of 18-24 year olds made a donation in the last three months. Sharing expensive things on social media is not seen as cool and institutions that don’t share these beliefs are losing relevance. This means banks and financial services businesses in general need to operate transparently, sustainably and acknowledge their customers’ philanthropic mindset. Applications like Raiz that allow consumers to round up the price of their coffee and donate it to their favourite charity are a good example of the way giving is being embedded into the financial ecosystem.

Over the course of our recent study, we saw numerous examples of how these shifting values will drive the change financial services organisations need to make to be ready to engage and embrace this new generation of consumers. We all saw how things ended for Gordon Gekko: sticking with the old ways of doing things simply isn’t a great way of preparing for the future. It’s time to allow the Robin Hood generation to lead the way to a more ethical and empowering financial future.

Dominic Walsh

Dominic Walsh, managing partner, Hero, consulting & advisory.


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