Millennials in finance

What it's like to be a millennial at a finance conference.

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Millennials. I have never hated a word more.

While I am smack bang in the middle of the millennial generation and regularly write about innovative financial products that are designed for early adopters of technology who are usually members of Gen Y, I resent the term and want it banned from the dictionary along with the likes of “moist”, “jel” and “YOLO”.

It’s the misuse and overuse of the term “millennials” by financial executives, CEOs and industry representatives at finance conferences that has caused my hatred of the word, which is usually used to stereotype my entire generation.

It isn’t so much that they refer to millennials in their talks or that they think incorporating a selfie into their product is “catering to millennials”.

The problem is that they speak as if millennials are some kind of elusive being, as if those in our generation are unicorns, despite many in our age bracket sitting right there in front of them.

At one of the first conferences I attended, my excitement slowly dissipated as I had to endure half an hour of an unnamed CEO describing how his product was designed for millennials.

“Imagine a 25-year-old,” the CEO said.

The audience sat thoughtfully, imagining a tech-savvy, fintech-loving 25-year-old who despised bank branches and refused to speak to anything but Facebook chat bots.

I, as a 25-year-old, sat in the audience and tried to control my incredulous facial expressions.

“They’re not thinking about standard financial products anymore. All they want is for the process to be quick and for the provider to talk to them in a language that they can engage with.”

I held back an eyeroll and thought of my fellow millennial friends.

They cared about what I cared about with financial products – cost, ease and accessibility.

Not how hip the online chat operator was.

While I thought this was a one-off, the instances continued.

At every event I attended I had millennial “truths” shoved down my throat.

The term “millennial” has become a bandaid for financial executives and an easy pitch for fintech startups.

Because of this, it has now gotten to the point where the millennial is a perfectly curated being that can’t exist outside of data, pitches and an anecdote about somebody’s 22-year-old daughter on Snapchat.

At the end of a conference I attended in recent weeks with a millennial colleague, myself now 26 and she 25, we spoke to someone who was explaining his new product.

Shockingly, his target market was millennials.

“So, us!” We laughed.

After he looked us in the eye and gave us no recognition, he launched into the story of how his 24-year-old daughter uses the product and loves it.

I’m sure she does, I thought.

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