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But younger generation still needs personal guidance, says banker

Young customers embrace technology, make fewer trips to banks

Technology has definitely changed banking and the way customers use banks. It’s hard to imagine life without automatic teller machines, online banking and other timesaving ways to take care of banking business. Young banking customers have grown up with technology and some bankers feel this age group definitely uses banks differently from their parents and grandparents.

T.E. “Gene” Walker, chairman and CEO of the Bank of Forest, said, “A lot of it has to do with metropolitan and rural areas. It’s still easier to physically go to a bank in a small town where distance and parking are not problems, but even in our area Internet banking has reduced the number of trips people make to banks.”

The current president of the Mississippi Bankers Association, Walker says small banks offer the same services from the standpoint of technology that larger banks do. However, he feels it’s definitely a generational thing as to how dependent customers are on these modern services.

“Young people are so familiar with computers and there’s not a lot of reason to come in to the bank unless they’re getting a loan,” he said. “We still don’t accept loan applications by Internet.”

John Zollinger, vice president of corporate banking for Whitney Bank, said, “There are college kids who haven’t been inside a bank. You can do almost anything online now except commercial loans.”

Huey Townsend with Guaranty Bank & Trust Co. in Belzoni said young people are more eager to use new means of service delivery, and he also observes that they come in less than older customers. However, he thinks personal contacts are still important and encourages customers of all ages to know their bankers.

On the subject of personal contact, Derek Caswell, product manager with BancorpSouth (and at age 25 a member of the younger generation), says that his age group still needs personal banking relationships.

“Young customers won’t have the consultant services and guidance if they don’t go into banks,” he said. “I think banks are reaching out to them and adapting some ways of doing business.”

Michael Lindsey, a vice president at BancorpSouth, said they see younger customers heavily using debit cards, rarely using checks and not feeling a need to carry cash. “Older customers are migrating to debit cards from checks but younger customers have grown up in a world where debit cards have always been there and widely accepted,” he said.

He also finds that the younger generation is more likely to use self-service technology such as direct deposit, to make deposits using ATMs instead of going into a branch bank, and are more comfortable making purchases over the Internet.

“We have many young Internet banking customers, but some of our most active users are parents of college age students who use Internet banking to keep track of the students’ spending and to make transfers to the students’ accounts,” he added.

The president of the Peoples Bank in Biloxi, Chevis Swetman, said, “I definitely think our younger customers come into the bank less and use online banking more. I’ve read surveys on the subject, and everything I’m reading says it’s more of a convenience factor than anything else.”

Dr. Frank Hood, a business professor at Mississippi College since 1967, says he sees a trend with students using more technology because they’re comfortable with it.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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