Young people in Mexico need finance that fits their lives

Bringing financial services to Millennial and Generation Z clients through user-centered design

Two customers we interviewed in the prototyping process, provide their initial reactions and feedback to the initial product design.

 “I want to tell you this story, but I am embarrassed,” Eileen* said.

“That’s OK, I responded, you really don’t need to share anything you don’t want,” I replied.

“No, no, I want to tell you…”

“So, my husband and I both save money at home. He puts his in a box in a drawer, like everyone. I have a special place, and my husband makes fun of it all the time.”

“One time, we had robbers at home. They found his box and stole all of his money.”

“My money is still there — they couldn’t find it.” She said with a smile.

“Wow, you must have a really smart place of hiding money,” I responded.

“Well, I save money in my…,” she hesitates, “… pads, you know, my monthly ones.”

*Name has been anonymized.


When I interview customers to inform user-centered design, I want to understand what they’re thinking, feeling, and doing. It is always the stories they tell me that provide the best inspiration. From Eileen’s short story, I learned that she’s proud of the money she puts away. She’s worried about safety but creative enough to find a place where the money can’t be found by others. I understand that she and her husband save separately, even though it is just the two of them in the household. I also see she has a bit of embarrassment — but mostly pride — in her innovative savings mechanism. I made sure to congratulate her for her creativity and for introducing me to a new hiding place for valuables!

Over the last 18 months, Accion’s Global Advisory Solutions team has been working on designing products that will build financial health, in partnership with MetLife Foundation. One of our partners, Caja Popular Cerano, is a financial cooperative with more than 100,000 clients and 225 branches across Mexico. It was founded in 1965 and has a strong social mission to serve individuals who haven’t benefitted from financial services in the past. Despite being a well-established financial service provider, with decades of experience, the cooperative realized a need to attract young customers, particularly as their client base is aging. They approached Accion to help them find a solution to the challenge of reaching more Millennial and Generation Z clients.

Caja Popular Cerano isn’t the only institution having difficulty in attracting young clients. The inclusion of young individuals in the global financial system has always been a challenge. Institutions are launching youth-centered products that incorporate innovative methods to promote savings and encourage financial health best practices. But according to a WOCCU study conducted in 2015, only 23.19 percent of youth surveyed in Latin America were clients of a banking institution. The study concluded that we need to adapt offerings on smartphones and use social media to attract a highly digital generation that has very different behaviors from previous generations. The study also found that Millennials are looking for a financial institution that allows them to conduct transactions at any time.

Our team embarked on this project aware of the need to do things differently for youth. We want to create a product designed to attract and help as many young people as possible. By putting individuals and their concerns at the center of product design and development, we can come up with innovative concepts and ideas that will work. By carrying out in-depth interviews, co-creation sessions, and repeated interactions in a relaxed and open environment, we gathered insights and compiled an intimate picture of the youth in Mexico.

Our interviews confirmed and expanded on the findings of the WOCCU report. We found that young people in Mexico are reticent to take out loans but are very excited to save for specific projects. Even if they don’t make much money, they value saving a little bit each month. They like using mobile apps, as this is how they keep in touch with friends. They’d love to be able to shop online but often lack a credit card or mobile money account. In fact, most people told us that they don’t currently use formal financial services, but they would like to build a positive relationship with a bank or credit union.

Through client interviews, Caja Popular Cerano learned that in order to attract and engage young customers, they would need to: Help customers to save, Be available to customers 24/7, Be smartphone accessible, Provide credit building opportunities, Be savvy on social media, Prove that they are socially conscious

We recently finished a round of prototyping with young people in Mexico. We tested an application concept that encourages users to put a little bit of money aside each month. Over time, it offers loans to help build the individual’s credit history. We also tested marketing messaging and found that youth wanted to partner with a socially minded institution that cares about poverty and the environment.

By putting customers like Eileen at the center of the products that we create, we are ensuring that the services provided by Caja Popular Cerano and our other partners can cater to the youth population. When we provide products that meet their needs, we can empower young people to seize more opportunities and dream bigger than before.

Gabriel Quiros Rubio contributed to this article.

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