Taking financial literacy to the apps

Editor’s note: This column ran in the March 21 edition of The Pulse, a weekly BankBeat email sent to subscribers which also includes top stories from the previous week. 

As we approach Financial Literacy Month, it’s enlightening (and maybe a little frightening) to look at the ways people learn to manage their money. About 80 percent of young adults have gotten financial advice from social media, according to a Forbes survey, but only a third of them check the reliability of their sources. Gen Z in particular tends to favor video-based content, especially on TikTok. If your bank isn’t already posting video content to social media, it’s well past time to consider it.

In an upcoming April BankBeat magazine story about financial literacy, a banker describes how their involvement on social media ramped up after they discovered a customer was using their Social Security number as a username. It’s the kind of thing that makes your mouth drop open in horror. 

That’s a rare case, but as cybersecurity expert Ashley Podhradsky pointed out in our magazine this month, there are many examples of more mundane lapses of judgment that can lead to cybersecurity flaws. The most inexperienced, vulnerable customers need the helping hand your institution can provide. The rest of us can always use a good refresher, too, and community bankers are perfectly positioned to fill this role.

The key element for this to work is being a trusted source of information. It’s ridiculously easy to speak with a tone of authority in a TikTok video, whether or not the content of that video is remotely reliable. There’s a famous New Yorker cartoon that sums up the ease with which the internet can obscure identities.

It’s often hard to know who precisely is giving out information on the internet, even when you can see their face on video; this is only going to get harder as AI content creation grows more sophisticated and widespread. Establishing your bank as a trustworthy source of information will give your customers (and other random viewers) a giant helping hand. 

TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance have been in the news lately because of a potential ban amid security concerns around the app. ByteDance could be forced to sell the platform, but even if TikTok disappears from the scene, there are plenty of other video-based platforms hungry for credible financial advice.

While the educational work of financial literacy shouldn’t disappear from the classroom, the reality is most people aren’t pulling out a textbook when they have a question. A lot of them aren’t even turning to Google for that information either. Meeting customers where they’re at means being on the apps, and that increasingly means video content.