Introducing the millennials

In contrast to the baby boomers (1946-1964) or generation X (1965-1982), millennials have grown up in a hyper-connected, socially-networked and technology filled world, which has had a strong impact on their approach to work and expectations as employees. These attitudes and preferences have significant implications for financial institutions, both for wider conduct and culture issues, and also specifically for the conduct and compliance function, which often lacks some of the skills these digital natives have mastered.

What makes millennials unique?

Millennials can be defined by three key attributes: their trust in technology, their trust in networks and their trust in social causes.1

  1. Trust in technology

Technology is integrated into many aspects of millennials’ everyday life and has afforded them strong digital skills. However, this trust and familiarity in technology and data sharing could increase bank exposure to information security and data privacy risks.  Research indicates that millennials are more likely to see the retention of confidential documents as ethical workplace behaviour.2

  1. Trust in networks

Millennials embrace today’s fast-moving world of instant connectivity, social media and collaboration. With trust in networks comes increased reputational and social media risk. A higher percentage of millennials consider blogging or tweeting negatively about a company to be ethical, relative to older generations.3  Interestingly, millennials’ ethos of collaboration can also assist banks and financial firms manage these risks through effective partnering with first line and IT counterparts.

  1. Trust in social causes

It’s important to millennials that they work for a company that pursues a socially responsible agenda4 with a business model enshrining good conduct, values and ethics.5  Financial services companies fulfil an important social function, and embedding a wider sense of purpose in employees can improve conduct and culture in the firm.

A clash of cultures: The millennial reckoning

Millennials represent an opportunity for financial institutions as they look to embed cultural change and increase their digital capabilities. However, millennials’ unique characteristics demand that financial institutions be proactive in order to attract, retain and mitigate the risks associated with this generation.

  • Demonstrate a culture of customer centricity

Millennials want to work for a company with a broader mission to help customers.6 Customer-centric cultures should be demonstrated in recruitment materials, be discussed in interviews and channelled throughout induction and every day activities. By articulating how the firm values customers, millennial employees are themselves more likely to feel a valued part of a bigger story, both assisting with retention and supporting the organisation in its continued efforts to meet these values.

  • Embrace millennial values

Millennials expect transparency and fast progression.7  This means putting into place strong performance management frameworks to allow them real-time feedback, coaching and support, as well as providing channels to promotion.

  • Provide opportunities to report misconduct

Research suggests millennials are more likely to report misconduct.8  By offering digital channels for reporting and, if possible, a dedicated company ethics advice resource, issues of misconduct are more likely to be proactively identified and managed.9

  • Build a strong Ethics and Compliance Programme

A strong Ethics and Compliance Programme highlights to millennials that their values are being taken seriously.10  Such programmes have a significant role in developing and maintaining an organisation’s culture and result in less pressure to break standards.

  • Provide meaningful tailored training

A strong Ethics and Compliance Programme should be reinforced by engaging, interactive and creative training reflecting the nature of millennials. Training should help employees to better experience information security and data privacy, clearly setting out what is and isn’t acceptable.


Financial institutions who ignore the mood of the millennial generation risk closing themselves off to the next pool of talent and consumers.  By embracing millennial values, and enabling these new employees and customers with the environment they need to thrive, financial institutions have the opportunity to attract and retain a connected and collaborative generation of technology savvy and ethical employees.


  1. “Why Millennials are Leading the Financial Revolution of Tomorrow,” Kreditech, July 22, 2015. Access at:
  2. “Ethical Behavior Differs Among Generations,” Strategic Finance, August 2013. Access at:
  3. Ibid
  4. “Engage Millennials with a Culture of Philantrophy,” Frontstream Blog, January 13, 2014. Access at:
  5. “Millennials want to work for employers committed to values and ethics,” The Guardian, May 5, 2015. Access at:
  6. “Engage Millennials with a Culture of Philantrophy,” Frontstream Blog, January 13, 2014. Access at:
  7. “The Millennials Paradox,” BBVA Research, U.S. Banking Watch, December 16, 2014. Access at:
  8. “Ethical Behavior Differs Among Generations,” Strategic Finance, August 2013. Access at:
  9. Ibid
  10. Ibid

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