TRENDING: Youth want one app to rule them all

by Louise Burgers. In managing their money, young people have been termed ‘Generation Wise’, who prize convenience and accessibility, says Student Village research.

by Louise Burgers. In managing their money online and offline, young people have been termed ‘Generation Wise’ who prize convenience and the ability to do everything with one app, in a Banking on the Future recent research presentation by youth agency, Student Village. In its latest research, it asked questions about young people’s  relationship with money, financial apps and ecommerce.

As Student Village founder and CEO, Ronen Aires, mused in his introduction to the presentation: “Will my kids still be banking at the same bank that I am banking at, which is the same one that my parents and my grandparents banked at – cumulatively in our family, for 90 years?” Student Village completed its Banking on the Future research study earlier this year, in which they polled 400 students; and then held eight focus groups with 80 students, ranging in ages from 18-25 years – with both students and young professionals in the mix; on their attitudes towards money.

Sechaba Sello, head of insights at Student Village, led a student panel discussion and gave insights into their research findings. He spoke about the fast based disruption and acceleration of digital that is impacting on every industry sector, especially finance and ecommerce. The main finding: youth are not monogamous in their relationship with money – they will go where they get the best deal, for convenience and are treated right.

Gen Wise

Sello said their recent research has shown that the younger generation has moved on from being about ‘Brand Me’ to ‘Brand We’, where the youth are supporting each other. “Now we are seeing that this is a generation of wise youth. They are a lot wiser about their spending and saving decisions and also want to be a lot more informed before making those decisions, when we asked for their feelings about banking and money.”

He added that an overarching theme is that this generation is ‘Gen Wise’. Their findings point to the fact that the youth are encouraging each other to do better; and that one bank cannot support their needs. He said students have an interesting relationship with banks. They want to be able to use the banks to play to their strengths, so if a bank has good transaction fees, then that will be where they will do all their transactions; if a bank has good interest rates for savings, then that will be where they put their savings. How they use those accounts is also interesting – they won’t use their savings account, for example, to do online purchases. Most importantly, they are credit-cautious and credit-savvy as they have seen their parents burned by credit.


The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting an acceleration towards a cashless society, in part due to the acceleration of ecommerce during lockdowns the world over; but also due to the health concerns of handling cold cash. “We are in a crazy time right now and cashless is a pandemic on its own,” quipped Sello. One of their youth panelists said they can’t remember the last time they saw a bank note. Previous research in 2019 showed a 64% increase in online shopping and speaks to a shift in attitudes that using cash is a risky business. It feels a lot safer to pay via phone or with a card. The traditional banking model is about to evaporate and the shift from cash to online is already taking  place.

The move to e-wallets is another big trend: mobile and digital wallets are picking up in multiple ways. FNB said e-wallet transaction volumes had increased immensely in the shift from cash to getting money across under lockdown. In fact, digital wallets are becoming a replacement for EFTs as they are not restricted to one bank or brand. One bank that came up again and again in the research is Tyme bank because of its ease and convenience, in terms of opening a bank account, to fixed transaction fees.


Insurance is associated with adulting and students aren’t focused on it. Many of their decisions are based on the short-term, and they aren’t thinking about insurance long term. They prefer start-ups which feel more human and fresher, like Pineapple Insurance and Naked Insurance, which are interacting with customers in new ways, so are a lot more appealing to the youth. Clever and convenient options are also finding favour with the youth, i.e., when they purchase their phone, offer an insurance option at the same time. Momentum asked a question about balance; and students yearn for balancing everything: from family to the future, to living in the moment, to work and play, Sello explained.

Interestingly, the lines are blurring between telcos and banks and their offerings. Sello called it “financial fluidity”.

Key themes that banks and brands should be aware of:

  • One bank can’t satisfy their needs: they will have multiple bank accounts to meet all their needs, depending on fees charged and interest given.
  • The youth are credit cautious as they have seen what debt has done to their families.
  • Cash is a throwback and is not safe in terms of being targeted at ATMs by criminals or in the spread of infection during a pandemic.
  • Young people want ease and convenience and will go for financial brands that allow them to sign up and use their services easily and quickly.
  • The youth handle their disputes on Twitter, because “Twitter gets sh*t done” – faster than calling in a complaint to a bank call centre.
  • In terms of apps, the FNB app is the Holy Grail to the youth because it has everything.
  • Uber, Ubereats and Mr D Food are the top apps on all youth phones, so e-hail is king.
  • Instagram has come a long way from selfies to viewing product you like, select and shop. That is definitely the way it is going and Insta-preneurs are the ones to watch.
  • The youth want options, not commitments. They may have more than one Sim card.
  • When it comes to data, they love the way Telkom breaks down its data bundles; and how some networks are offering more services outside of purely mobile services.
  • One app to rule them all: Future apps will be ‘super apps’ that enable all preferences to be merged into one: from banking to data to telco needs. This is the age of personalisation and consumers want something that meets all their needs.
  • Basically, young people want ease-of-use financial services, good deals, convenience, and to be respected for their choices. They need brands to add value to their lives and help them achieve their dreams. To be part of, and support, their “hustle fuel”.

And as for Ronen Aires’ kids – he confirmed that they were banking with a different bank. “The one thing that we can be sure of, is that this generation are going to do things differently,” Aires concluded.


Louise Burgers (previously Marsland) is the Publisher and Editor and Co-Founder of She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She has specialised in local and Africa consumer trends and is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger in the next decade.


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