Ask Gen Y What It Wants

New program based on youth preferences pays off big for a Singapore bank.

October 13, 2011
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Imagine launching a program for generation Y and being able to say just a few months later that 70% of the program’s participants are totally new customers of your financial institution. Singapore’s OCBC Bank can say that after launching “FRANK” in May 2011.

Bee-Leng Chng, head of mass segment management, and Priscilla Yong, FRANK segment manager for OCBC presented some of the program’s secrets to success at the BAI Retail Delivery Conference in Chicago.

OCBC turned 15 months of research around youth psychology and behavior into engagement of gen Y members and potential members. Demographic surveys revealed gen Y’s financial institution preferences. And FRANK turned many of their wishes turned into reality.

“It’s not easy to switch to a customer-centric business model,” admits Chng. It required buy-in from senior management, and revamping of processes, systems, delivery, and culture, and collaboration across all departments, she says.

As part of the FRANK program, OCBC modeled a pair of branches on university campuses after the fashion and gadget stores that youths and young working adults frequent in malls.

OCBC, which Bloomberg has ranked the world’s strongest bank, is a traditionally serious, corporate bank. But walk into one of the FRANK branches and you see walls of debit card designs that young customers can choose when they open accounts.

Retail areas display T-shirts and other merchandise with the FRANK logo. All service “ambassadors” are members of the gen Y demographic.

The debit cards, in particular, have been especially popular. “When you open a FRANK account, you get to select a debit card of your choice,” describe the marketing materials. “Choose from more than 130 designs. Cute, hot, quirky, retro, or wild: Which one suits your personality, whim, or fancy? You can even change your card to a new design whenever you feel like it.”

The cards are so popular, youth frequently tweet about their own unique cards—totally unsolicited, notes Chng.

To expand its reach, OCBC plans to open more hands-on FRANK branches in malls. In addition to the branches and debit cards, FRANK also attracts gen Y with:

  • Online and mobile banking;
  • A gen Y website,, which links social media to banking; and
  • Facebook ads with promotions and tips on saving and spending.

“The outside-in approach to innovation starts with the customer,” says Yong. “And gen Y is pretty much the same around the world.”

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