Millennials and Gen Z Don’t Have the Same Feelings About Canada’s Big 5 Banks as Older Generations Do — Maru Group

By Michelle Walkey, Managing Director of Canada & Retail

Canada’s big 5 banks have stood the test of time, generating generous profits through good times and bad. They appear so solid that they seem to be carved from the unyielding granite of the Canadian Shield. But a look beneath the surface using our unique tools reveals a weakness.

Millennials and Gen Z don’t have the same feelings about these banks as older generations do. And they have a more favorable perception of more modern online financial services companies like Tangerine and PC Financial. As these generations accumulate more wealth, they will determine the future of Canadian banking.

The use of visual semiotics enables us to identify the emotional signature of these banks-revealing people’s underlying perceptions. Our Brand Emotion tool is like an X-ray, revealing what would otherwise be hidden from view. It taps directly into our unconscious thinking, bypassing our rational mind to reveal how people really feel.

Contentment, or a sense of well being, is a dominant feeling associated with each of the 5 big banks

We know that people feel, then they behave, and finally they think-often as a post hoc rationalization. In fact, we often begin to act before we are even conscious of it. “Yes, your brain is wired to initiate your actions before you are aware of them,” explains neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett in Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain. She says “the brain is a predicting organ. It launches your next set of actions based on your past experience and current situation, and it does so outside your awareness. In other words, your actions are under the control of your memory and your environment.”

Because, we feel, then we behave and then we think, Maru measures all three response types to provide holistic understanding. We place a priority on accurately measuring how people feel, using methods and tools like visual semiotics that surface unconscious or System 1 thinking.

Overall, we find that the 5 big banks are generally felt to be helpful or co-operative, on average. In fact, the dominant emotions associated with each of these banks are positive. Of course, there are exceptions such as RBC and BMO who are felt to be unfocused or ineffective respectively. But when we uncover the feelings of those aged 18–34, a very different picture emerges that should concern the big banks.

The big banks are under serious threat from new entrants with appeal to younger audiences

When we examine CIBC, for example, the younger generations associate it with feelings of being held back or repressed and vulnerable-the way you might feel after being denied a loan. And RBC is felt to be impersonal or indifferent, and restrictive, by those under 35. These negative associations will hamper the business performance with these younger groups.

Tangerine and PC Financial, in contrast, tend to have more positive images amongst the younger generations. Tangerine is associated with feelings of independence and liberation. And PC Financial is seen as desirable and stimulating. The depth and strength of these positive feelings is a source of power in the market and a potential foundation for future growth.

The big banks should be looking over their shoulder at what is coming next, as Tangerine again got the highest customer satisfaction rating, according to the J.D. Power 2020 Canada Retail Banking Satisfaction Study.

MoneyScreen, our syndicated monitoring of innovation in financial services, consistently shows younger generations being more open to ways of managing their money that can completely bypass the legacy banking system. And indeed the younger generations are more likely to be willing to switch financial institutions, according to EY, a consultancy.

Change is happening in the banking sector.

The big banks can succeed with younger audiences with a holistic understanding of how they feel, behave and think

To help organizations unlock their potential in this period of change we advocate that companies need the holistic understanding of people that comes from the measurement of how people feel, behave and think.

Our Brand Health Tracking solution is unique in that it measures all the aspects of how people feel, behave, and think about a brand. We understand the long-term behavioral process through the emotional Feel side of the equation and the short-term through the rational Think side.

This solution is powered by HUB, Maru’s proprietary software. This software is unique as it provides tracking study execution with significant efficiencies and deliverables at near real time speed. This emphasis on speed of data delivery transforms the relevance of the insight in our tracking data in the business decision making cycle. HUB combines tracking data with all other research to provide total visibility of results in real-time, while the software’s System 1 and System 2 methodologies deliver a unique and holistic view of brand performance.

To learn more about the ways people feel about the brands in the financial sector, and more about how our unique Brand Health Tracking offer can help your organization, contact me. I would be happy share the details of our investigations and help you generate deeper insights.

Originally published at on March 11, 2021.

Maru helps its clients make informed decisions in real-time by combining proprietorial software, deep industry experience, and unique IP in system 1 apps.

Maru helps its clients make informed decisions in real-time by combining proprietorial software, deep industry experience, and unique IP in system 1 apps.