Commentary: Finance companies are desperately trying to figure out Gen Z consumers

NEW YORK: In recent months, payments company Visa has quietly started to offer customers a new feature: A digital tool that lets them cap spending in a personalised way, for example by restricting the bill at coffee bars to a preset limit each week.

Nothing odd about that, you might think. With inflation undermining household budgets, and credit card debt at record highs in countries such as the United States, consumers have reasons to restrict themselves.

But peer a little closer, and there is a twist: Visa’s move is partly sparked by a scramble to make sense of the behaviour of Gen Z, or the cohort born between 1997 and 2012. “(Gen Z) wants control,” explains Charlotte Hogg, chief executive of Visa Europe, who says the company is urgently “trying to figure out” how these teens and young adults think and behave.


No wonder. It is a time-honoured feature of any society that elders decry the antics of their kids and grandkids – and assume that the latter will become more like the former when they “grow up”.

And since most business leaders today are baby boomers or members of Gen X, (born, that is, between 1946 and 1964, or 1965 and 1980, respectively), many feel baffled by Gen Z, and assume they are identical to millennials (or those born between 1981 and 1996).

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