Tapping into the Mind of the Underbanked

Uncovering the unique needs and wants of a growing and significant segment.



  • Growth & Innovation
  • Market Strategy
  • Qualitative Research


  • Financial Services


  • Data Synthesis
  • Qualitative: Online Discussion Boards & In-Depth Interviews
  • Storytelling
  • Experiential Deliverables

The Challenge

Creating a research roadmap for the journey ahead

It’s not news that traditional Financial Services firms are feeling mounting pressure to meet the demands of consumers, compete against new non-traditional services in the market, and adapt their outreach and services. Understanding the Underbanked, a historically neglected but growing segment of the population, was a huge opportunity for the client – who serves nearly half of US households with a broad range of products such as personal and business banking solutions, credit cards, mortgages, investment advice, small business loans and payment processing.

The Underbanked is an audience that earns less than $75k a year, lives in both urban and rural locations, spans all ethnicities, has a bank account (unlike the un-banked), and largely uses alternative (and often costly) financial sources, such as money orders, check cashing facilities, wire transfers, etc. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the size of this segment, and the client sought to learn more about them – their attitudes, behaviors, needs, concerns – and how a Financial Services company could attract, engage, and build loyalty with them.

Research Goals & Objectives:

  • Understand the Underbanked consumer: their self-perceptions, priorities, aspirations, stressors, challenges, etc.
  • Explore their orientation to financial management: mindsets, motivations, behaviors, tools, partners, etc.
  • Gauge reactions to marketing materials and content, understanding which best resonate and why
  • Identify existing knowledge gaps and warning areas to inform strategic planning and the organization’s overall goals

The CMB Difference

CMB collaborated with the client along their entire insights journey. The highly collaborative approach included conducting qualitative research, creating multimedia deliverables for distribution inside the organization, and synthesizing a variety of information our client had on hand. This included primary research, secondary research, and CMB’s industry expertise and deep knowledge of the client’s business, to provide a holistic view of the segment and a strategic roadmap to understanding how to message and serve this population.

CMB is a great research partner. They have an excellent staff that develops on target questionnaires and error free analysis. Everyone I work with is a pleasure, very easy to work with, highly consultative, collaborative, and knowledgeable of both our industry and business. The teams work on a high volume of projects and each one is handled professionally with good quality assurance and strong visual presentation of the data. We have many researchers on our team, all with slightly different styles and CMB is able to adapt to these demands.


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The Results

Increased understanding for the unique needs of the Underbanked

The Underbanked wants to be a customer for the client, but because of their habits, coupled with feelings of pride and embarrassment, they haven’t had success in making that transition. CMB’s research confirmed that FinTechs are a valuable alternative to traditional banks for this audience and needed a better understanding. Another important finding from this research was that the challenges and motivators among the Underbanked are universal – there were no ethnicity or urbanicity differences. This group was monolithic in their shared experiences of being Underbanked. CMB delivered a knowledge base of the underbanked, a foundation for marketing, product, and service development, and a roadmap for future research. Knowledge gaps were uncovered that the client needed to fill and recommendations were provided to complete the ideal Underbanked profile.

Our People

Our people are our power. Meet the people who make a difference.

Courtnie Hallendy VP, Accelerate & Account Management

Lauren Sears Director, Insights & Strategy Operations