Financial Education for Millennials: Can a bank-branded website Bridge the Gap?

by on Feb 12, 2015

bank_of_america_sidelogoRecently, television advertisements from Bank of America have been promoting, one result of the bank’s year-old partnership with Khan Academy, a non-profit education site. With the goal of providing free financial education for both clients and non-clients, and with over five million site visits since the start of 2014, the website seems to be making headway towards the hopes and expectations of the educational partnership.

Last May, Ann-Tyler Connell, Bank of America’s Senior Vice President of Communications, revealed in an article on ThinkAdvisor, that over half of Better Money Habits users at the time were between the ages of 40-69, and that the content “was working well for families.” There does not seem to be a publicly available update on demographic data, but Bank of America representatives were optimistic at the time that the Khan Academy “go at your own pace” method would also be able to reach millennials and younger generations thanks to its web-based format.

A 2014 poll conducted in mid-October by Bank of America and USA TODAY suggests this might not be the case.

The poll asked 1,001 millennials (those between 18-34 years of age) questions about their financial situations. According to the survey, of the 69% of millennials with savings accounts, 37% hold less than $5,000. Another important finding from the survey indicated that one third of millennials still get financial help from their parents with cellphone, grocery, clothing, car or other payments expenses.

Perhaps the most important information gained from the poll is that despite the numbers it reflects, there is a disconnect between what is happening and how millennials feel about it. According to Andrew Plepler, Bank of America’s Corporate Social Responsibility Executive, “the cautionary note is that [millennials] appear to be living very short-term paycheck to paycheck and not thinking as much about long-term financial savings.” Yet, millennials remain financially optimistic enough to prioritize values, meaning, “that they’re making decisions not just based on finances,” Plepler noted. The USA Today survey was released well over a year after Bank of America announced its partnership with Khan Academy. Even if the Better Money Habits site is reaching some of the millennial population, many financially optimistic, short-term savers may be disregarding it – and similar financial learning sites – entirely.

Bank of America has not been heavily promoting on its public site. In fact, a quick search on the firm’s website yields little help, apart from two press releases on the launch of the Khan Academy and Bank of America partnership. Outside of the frequent television spots for the financial learning vehicle, it is unclear how the firm plans to reach its millennial customers.

Interestingly, the firm’s own 2014 “Trends in Consumer Mobility Report” demonstrated that mobile banking is now so frequent that almost one third of 1,000 18 plus respondents utilize mobile banking at least once a day. Maybe the mobile phone is where Bank of America should introduce Perhaps then, the firm can help to bridge the gap between millennial financial optimism and reality.