WTF is banksplaining?

  • Chase famously tweeted out a message that some felt shamed the poor.
  • Banks should stop banksplaining and lead the way to better financial health through products and experiences.

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WTF is banksplaining?

A little joke about budgeting blew back on Chase hard last week. The bank shared some pretty bland financial advice via Twitter: don't buy coffee out, bring your lunch to work, and hoof it instead of grabbing a cab.

Pretty innocuous, if not bland, financial advice. But the tone got to people. It got to people the same way people are getting fed up with hustle porn and the notion that if you just work harder and longer, you'll have more than the poor schmuck next door who can't afford a $400 medical emergency. The tweet tapped into a latent anger at Chase and at financial institutions in general.

Some high profile celebrities like Elizabeth Warren and Representative Katie Porter took to Twitter to vent.

Some of this hullabaloo certainly stems from our culture of outrage and polarization. But part of it derives from our antagonistic relationship with banks. "As my Fast Company colleague Cale Weissman said, this tweet came from a 'bank worth $400B that charges anywhere from $2.50 and $5 for individual ATM fees and $34 per overdraft—both of which are taxes on poor people,'" wrote Jeff Beer in Wired.

What is banksplaining?

We've heard of mansplaining, manspreading, and maninterrupting. Banksplaining is the explanation of something by a bank, typically to a woman but can also be to a man, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing. Kudos to my co-host of The Challengers Podcast, Josh Liggett, who coined the term during our latest episode.

In Just buy the f***ing latte, Ellevest's Sallie Krawcheck responded to the Chase tweet but also to The Latte Factor, a new book on personal finance. In it, an enlightened barista gives a woman the trite, often-repeated financial advice to invest her money instead of splurging on a frivolous, expensive coffee.

In this story and Chase's bungled social media message, the ex-Wall Street executive sees what she calls the masculinization of money. "While girls are being taught to be careful with money and to save it, boys are being taught to pursue money and to grow it," she wrote in Fast Company. "It is likely no wonder that the money industries are overwhelmingly male, even as the research tells us that women are better investors than men, both as individual investors and professional investors."

In spite of their more modern technology and cooler ethos, challenger banks can also fall into banksplaining. In an advert around last Valentine's Day, UK-based Revolut created a series of media on London's subway that some felt mocked singles and their purchasing behavior.

Instead of telling customers what to do, banks should gently show them how to improve their financial health through better products and experiences that make it easier to set and hit financial goals. Consumers, sensitive to the power and wealth differentials between them and their financial institution, are done being banksplained.

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