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Centric Bank hopes to hook millennial employees, customers with help of new board

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Members of Centric Bank's new millennial advisory board network after a meeting at the Dauphin County-based bank's headquarters in Lower Paxton Township.
Members of Centric Bank's new millennial advisory board network after a meeting at the Dauphin County-based bank's headquarters in Lower Paxton Township. - (Photo / )

Young people don't think banks are cool.

Most millennials don't want to work for banks, and a good chunk – a whopping 71 percent, according to one survey – would rather go to the dentist than listen to what banks are saying.

One midstate institution hopes to change that.

Lower Paxton Township-based Centric Bank has formed an advisory board made up completely of millennials, defined as people born between 1980 and 2004. Half of the 16-person board works for Centric Bank, while the other half represents a diverse group of businesspeople from the Harrisburg Young Professionals.

"The goal of this was recognizing that millennials are going to quite soon be the majority of the population," said Centric Bank CEO Patti Husic, who pitched the idea for the board.

This age group will make up more than 40 percent of the workforce by 2022, according to the American Bankers Association. That means banks need to start bringing them in now – both as employees and customers – if they want to stay relevant as the baby boomers fade out of the picture.

Centric is at least the second local bank to form an advisory board to help hook this generation. Millersburg-based Mid Penn Bank formed its own group earlier this year.

That board focuses mostly on how Mid Penn can better serve and attract millenial customers, said Alex Kauffman, a commercial loan officer who leads the group. The members include about 10 young professionals from the Harrisburg area, as well as several Mid Penn employees.

Over the past six months, they have served as a kind of focus group to help the bank tweak its digital offerings and make banking easier for younger customers to understand.

One of the biggest takeaways from the group so far, Kauffman said, has been that young professionals typically appreciate the value of using a community bank, despite the onslaught of out-of-market competitors, but they have concerns about not understanding how exactly the banking industry works.

Centric's group will meet roughly quarterly for the next two years to brainstorm ideas for how to appeal to this up-and-coming generation, both as customers and potential employees.

One project the board is undertaking now, for example, involves a professional videographer from the Harrisburg Young Professionals taping himself opening an account with Centric online.

Centric's leaders might discover some weaknesses in the way they operate, Husic said, but that's the point. The millennial board will have failed if, at the end of these two years, it comes back with nothing more than, "You're doing everything right."

Centric and Mid Penn are not the only banks looking to increase their millennial appeal. Financial institutions across the country have long worked to enhance their digital offerings, including products like cardless cash and digital wallets, with the hopes of attracting more young customers.

Still, while most people from that generation have some relationship with a financial institution, more than half don't think their particular bank offers anything special, according to the American Bankers Association.

Advisory boards like the one at Centric could help change that locally, said Derek Whitesel, executive director of the Harrisburg Young Professionals.

Whitesel agreed to join Centric with this endeavor after hearing Husic speak at one of the Young Professionals' roundtable discussions.

Even though the Young Professionals' millennial board members may never work in the banking industry, participating lets them network with other local movers and shakers, including Husic, a member of the American Bankers Association Board of Directors, Whitesel said.

In addition to increasing the appeal to millennial customers, Centric also hopes to learn how to better attract millennials to its workforce. Of its 96 employees, fewer than 15 are part of that generation.

One lesson the bank has already learned is that members of this age group want to feel like the work they're doing helps the community, said Leslie Meck, the bank's chief retail officer and an advisor for the millennial board.

One of the group's biggest measures of success, she said, will be whether the bank grows its number of millennial customers and employees after this two-year period.

Husic is hopeful the board, which recently held its first meetings, will help them do that.

"We're excited for this group to roll up their sleeves and start working," she said.

This story has been updated to include information about Mid Penn Bank's millenial advisory board.

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Jennifer Wentz

Jennifer Wentz

Jennifer Wentz covers Lancaster County, York County, financial services, taxation and legal services. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at jwentz@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @jenni_wentz.

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