Centennial Bank in Conway is reaching out to the millennial generation to gain understanding about how they think and act toward the banking industry.

What better way to research these questions than to reach out specifically to the younger generation and utilize the resources at hand in a college town, according to Eric King, Centennial Bank’s vice president of marketing and public relations.

King said the millennial generation is the future so Centennial is hoping to try and evaluate what aspects of banking it can make better.

"We’re just trying to figure out the ways banking could be more convenient for them," he said.

King said there’s been a lasting relationship and partnership between the bank and the University of Central Arkansas for many years, so they are working directly with UCA, Associate Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Professor Dan Fisher and his class.

Fisher said this is both a business opportunity for Centennial Bank and a way to have the students develop beneficial solutions for them and peers across the nation.

"Eric wanted to get input from our Innovation and Entrepreneurship students, specifically our newest students who take a course in creativity and innovation," Fisher said.

Initially King wanted to collect survey information and conduct a focus group, but as they talked more, a different idea came into play.

"We thought it would be potentially more powerful to have this class of students discover real problems and create imaginative solutions to them that would make the most difference for millennials," he said. "Essentially, student teams will be discovering opportunities and presenting new ideas to improve the bank offerings, experiences and communications."

The project is perfect for the class because it allows for hands-on learning about people as well as shaping new ideas that could potentially make an impact, according to Fisher.

"Right now, the students are wrapping up the discovery phase and will be moving into the solution phase this week," he said. "They have conducted in-depth interviews with over 100 college students to learn all they can about their banking journey, experiences, perceptions, frustrations and needs."

Fisher said one of the big things they’ve discovered is college millennials don’t see a firm difference among banks. When they move off to attend college, they are apprehensive to join a new one, and if need be, they open an account based on peer advice.

"This will be one of the big challenges that the students will have to use their creativity to overcome this inertia and apathy," Fisher said. "It will take something innovative to capture the attention of this group and the students are learning how to invent such creative ideas and solutions in this class and through this project."

Fisher added the students are enjoying taking on this specific challenge due to having their  personal frustrations toward the issue.

"They are doing exactly what the world’s most advanced and sophisticated product development teams do to find problems and build new solutions," he said. "I wouldn’t be surprised if some promising new financial ideas aren’t hatched from this group."

King said while the students at UCA are involved in an actual class project, surveys were also sent out to other areas including Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Florida State and the University of Tampa.

"[We’re] touching our footprint of where we have locations," he said.

A presentation from the UCA class will be given to Centennial Bank on April 11.

(Staff writer Hilary Andrews can be reached by email at hilary.andrews@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1215. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)