When we ask people about what they think of using financial technologies to manage their money, awareness and attitudes towards using devices are often relatively consistent across ages.
The world is getting older. Estimates suggest that this year will be the first in which the global population aged above 65 outnumber those under five. And the structure of labour markets in many countries reflect this, with participation rates for older workers increasing. For example, labour force activity rates in the UK for people aged over 55 are increasing, driven in part by changes to state pension age entitlement for women.
But this shouldn’t come as a surprise. People in many countries are living longer and are generally also in good health. As a result, many should be able to work to a later age than in the past if they have the opportunity and if they choose to do so. This is good news.
The ageing of society is occurring at the same time as rapid changes in technology. A 65 year old today was 53 when the first iPhone was released in 2007. Adoption of mobile technology has been fast to the point that mobile phone ownership is almost ubiquitous irrespective of age group. Ofcom in the UK (Ofcom report cited by Age UK) estimates that 94% of adults have access to a mobile phone and it does not change much by age group. For those aged 65 to 74 years, it is 90%. For those 75 and older it is 86%.
But despite the ready availability of access to mobile devices and therefore to the internet, concern is sometimes expressed that older people are more likely to be ignored when companies, the public and financial institutions design digital markets. Age UK notes that older people are likely to be narrow users of the internet, carrying out fewer activities and to be less likely to use social media.
Without doubt, some older people are at risk of being excluded from the digital society and market place. But it is also important to recognise that many older people are totally at home with digital approaches.
It would be a mistake to ignore the older generation when considering digital approaches to banking and other ways in which people manage their money. Indeed, one of the things we have seen in ING International Surveys going back over eight years, and looking into consumer attitudes to mobile banking and new technology in finance, is that there is often little difference in the attitudes of older and younger respondents when it comes to their acceptance, reluctance and expectations of new technology in banking.
One of the most interesting places where we have seen a lack of significant age trends is in how people interact with their bank to access services. Despite us asking about the use of phone calls, websites, mobile apps, online chat tools, voice-enabled devices, social media and branches, we did not see significant differences across the age brackets in the tools people say they use to access banking services.
Interestingly, this year we have also seen that the perceived benefits of using mobile apps to spend or transfer money are relatively consistent across age brackets. In our latest survey, for example, there were no significant differences across ages 35 and upwards, between the number of people who said they were more confident in spending or transferring money since they started using mobile apps to do so. We also saw this across those who said they experienced better performance using mobile apps.
And last year, we saw that although more young people are likely to own digital assets such as cryptocurrencies, awareness rates were consistent across age groups. This speaks to the importance of media and social trends when it comes to what we feel we know about technology. However, we also see that awareness doesn’t necessarily translate into use as there are many other factors at play. As outlined by the late sociologist Everett Rogers in his book “Diffusion of Innovations”, the uptake of new technologies can depend on whether they provide an improvement, if they are compatible with lifestyles, easy to use, quick to start working, and whether they are seen to be used by others.
More and more money management services are being offered through digital devices, and in our international surveys the lack of significant age trends continues.
Jessica Exton – Behavioural Scientist, International Consumer Economics, ING