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New Age and Traditional Banking Converge for Washingtonians

Traditional brick-and-mortar banking systems are gradually falling by the wayside amid an uncertain COVID-19 landscape. Particularly among millennials, the greater use of mobile banking activity opposed to traditional banking platforms separates them from their Generation Z and baby boomer counterparts.

According to 2018 LeadsCon research, millennials were 10 times more likely to coordinate borrowing transactions via peer-to-peer banking, compared to consumers 50 years and older. Simultaneously, 27 percent of these millennials have never visited a physical banking branch before. LeadsCon, the annual conference of marketing and business development firms, analyzes consumer behaviors – including banking to help insiders create best practices for those industries.

“I feel like online banking is more versatile for online businesses actually, and I use it myself. I sell a lot of products online, and it’s just easier to collect money from different people using apps like Cash App, Venmo and PayPal especially, and when you’re able to link them into your social media as well,” said 26-year-old D.C. music producer Tyrone Johnson.

While millennials like Johnson have seemingly acquiesced to the modern luxuries and advancements of mobile banking opportunities, many baby boomers still find greater comfort in utilizing traditional banking institutions to manage finances.

Some baby boomers who spoke with the Washington Informer said they associated visiting physical bank branches with a type of “ritual” that kept them personally connected with the financial institutions, lenders, and associates with whom they entrusted their hard-earned money.

“I’m old school; I still go to my branch for my banking needs like transfers, money orders, deposits, and other things,” said Tasha Braxton, a native Washingtonian baby boomer. “A few of my peers do use new age banking methods, but I have a lot more friends who still have those old, core values like myself.”

Still, most Americans search for a happy median between shifting and new financial innovations and traditional methods of doing business.

Jermaine Wright, father of four and native Washingtonian, has learned to merge both traditional and new-age banking habits into his financial habits, however, he still prefers original brick and mortar services.

“It makes things a lot easier in terms of things like Cash App, and Zelle, but I also think it’s very risky too. I have only had Cash App for about 8 or 9 months, and I wouldn’t get one initially because I was sure of its security,” Wright said. “But now everyone uses these apps, so it kind of forces you to have some form of digital platform from which to manage financial transactions.”

Digitized transactions have spilled over into in-store product accessibility, as the District has already seen the emergence of cash-less businesses – that only accept payment for goods and services through apps, credit and debit cards, or gift cards.

“I actually think it’s ridiculous. If you want me to come into your store and purchase something, but you don’t have an option for me to pay cash, it impedes business and denies access. It makes no sense whatsoever,” Wright said.

Millicent McDermott, 77, an Alexandria grandmother, said the new technology has been a blessing as her mobility has lessened and the pandemic forced the temporary closure of several bank locations in her immediate area. Like Braxton, McDermott told the Informer she was hesitant about new financial innovations but found that her resistance was futile.

“You could see the people in the grocery stores ready to beat me every time I pulled out my checkbook. They would hiss and suck their teeth at me, and I didn’t really care because I felt in control of that checkbook,” McDermott said. “I didn’t want to push buttons and swipe a card. In hindsight, I was just being stubborn. Eventually the store stopped taking checks and they opened self-checkout lines to speed the process up, so I had no choice.”

McDermott said fortunately a neighborhood store with senior hours afforded her time to try out her debit card when few people were in the store to make her feel anxious. After a few times, she became a pro at self-checkout and now cannot imagine life with a checkbook.

“I still write everything down in my checkbook to keep the balance sheet accurate, but innovation is our friend. I can now check my balances online,” she said laughing. “I even deposited a check using my cellphone. I feel like one of these young folks now.”

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