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Generation X, Nexus, call it what you like, there's a new generation of customers and employees moving up the demographic ladder. Banks must understand their distinctive attitudes to life, work and money.
If you were born before 1960, you probably don't listen to trance music, you've never been to a rave, and you look upon snowboarders as an alien life form. So what do you talk about over lunch with your younger colleagues - you know, the ones with the earrings? That would be the men with the earrings. The women are the ones sporting the colourful tattoos. Increasingly, they, the notorious Generation X, will be setting the agenda, inside and outside the lunchrooms of the banks, and it won't include golf, bridge or Bruce Springsteen. Will you be ready? Do you even care? Jennifer Welsh says you probably don't, but you should.
Born in 1965, Welsh is herself a member of GenX, or the Nexus Generation as she prefers to call it. As a partner in the Toronto-based consulting firm d-Code, Welsh specializes in explaining, or decoding, Nexus to the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Her clients include Nortel, the United Way and the government of Canada. So far, she says, with few exceptions, banks and bankers just aren't getting the message. They aren't even asking. Bankers, she says, are preoccupied with Baby Boomers.
"It's natural. Boomers are very profitable for banks," she allows, "but there's an opportunity cost to sticking with the devil you know. Generally, the Big Six banks have been quite slow in understanding what drives the Nexus generation and in recognizing the potential."
The potential, Welsh says, lies in the opportunities Nexus represents both as a customer base and as an employee pool, and it comes from attributes the generation possesses that are so far largely unrecognized in the banking community.
First the numbers, near and dear to any banker's heart. GenX, or Nexus, appears on the radar screens of financial institutions as an insignificant trough between the twin peaks of the Baby Boom and the Echo generations (the latter being the Boomers' children, still too young to be full participants in the economy). That's a serious misapprehension about the importance of Nexus, Welsh argues.
Estimates of the size of the Nexus generation depend on your definition. Douglas Coupland, author of the novel, Generation X: Tales for all Accelerated Culture, perhaps the bestknown depiction of the generation, would say Nexus consists of those members of the population who are today between 30 and 40 years old. Demographer David Foot (Boom, Bust & Echo) defines them more narrowly as those born between 1960 and 1966, while pollster Michael Adams (Sex in the Snow: Canadian Social Values at the End of the …