What millennials want: Highlights from our 2017 survey

Paul Appleton
Consumer Banking

The millennial generation (ages 21-34) is becoming more and more important to nearly every institution, including banks. The group represents a significant base of customers, employees, and emerging leaders. But do we know enough about them to effectively serve and support them as they become more influential?

3 young adults (2 men, 1 woman) sitting outdoors at a table with coffees & looking at a cellphone.Speaking for Bank of the West and myself, I’d say not yet. We want to learn more about this segment, as their habits and preferences may shape our business for years to come. That’s why we recently undertook a large study to find answers to questions such as:

  • Do millennials have solid plans for homebuying or retiring?
  • How much is investing a priority in their lives?
  • Do they seek to achieve the American Dream (and is that even a thing for them)?

Today I’m pleased to share some of the broad results of Bank of the West’s 2017 Millennials Study. The insights we learned are too numerous to share in a single blog post, so look for additional posts in the coming weeks to follow this overview.

But first, a few words about how we conducted the research. We interviewed just over 1,000 U.S. participants in January, with a panel consisting of 80% millennials (ages 21-34), 10% Gen-Xers (ages 35-51), and 10% Baby Boomers (ages 52-70). Having the subsets of older generations provided a good contrast that helped shape our conclusions.

The survey explored lifestyle aspects that included careers, housing, saving and investing, and retirement. One common theme that surfaced in a number of areas is the dichotomy between perception and reality. Consider these examples:

Housing: The majority of millennials (85%) we interviewed want the flexibility to move when they want and not feel tied down. But most (68%) said they would prefer to build a life in one community, rather than live and work in multiple geographies.

Careers: Stability is a main theme here, too. Nearly half (48%) agree that they would need to switch jobs every few years to be paid what they feel they’re worth; at the same time most millennial respondents (65%) are happy working for their current company.

American Dream: Our findings showed that millennials want the classic American Dream of owning a home, paying off debt, and someday retiring — along with a few other components, like traveling the world. In fact, the vast majority (85%) are confident they will attain the American Dream. But only half have plans in place to finance those dreams.

These tip-of-the-iceberg observations are invaluable for us at Bank of West, for they hold more specific insights that will help shape our work for years. We will explore these and other 2017 Millennials Study findings in future blog posts, but you are welcome to view the full results here.

The opportunity before us is exciting!

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