In case you missed it, today is a special day according to Bank of America who have designated October 17 as “Pay Back a Friend Day” to demonstrate that no matter how long it’s been or how much or little is owed, friendships are greater than any debt.
The “celebration” is the result of a research report conducted by the brand entitled the Friends Again Report, an in-depth study that explores the impact that money can have on our closest relationships. One of the key findings was the fact that money is cited as a key stressor in friendships, and friends would rather talk about nearly anything - such as drama in their family or even their weight - before talking about money.
Other key findings include:
- Mobile payment apps ease the social friction among friends, as many say the technology holds debtors accountable for amounts owed (33%) and eliminates the awkwardness of face-to-face confrontation (30%).
- Nearly one in five say sending money via mobile would improve their relationship with friends, with millennials twice as likely to say so (41%).
I spoke with Meredith Verdone, CMO of Bank of America about the report, if anything surprised her and what other brands can learn from it.
Q: What was the rationale behind the report and Pay Back a Friend Day?
I spoke with Meredith Verdone, CMO of Bank of America about the report, if anything surprised her and what other brands can learn from its Again report to better understand the impact of money on relationships and the findings confirmed our insight. This is why Bank of America has declared October 17 as “Pay Back a Friend Day,” demonstrating that no matter how long it’s been or how much or little is owed, friendships are greater than any debt.
We want to take the awkwardness out of asking a friend to pay you OR be paid back and new person-to-person (P2P) payment offerings in our app are making it easy and secure. We are seeing the rapid adoption of this technology among our 23 million active mobile users, who increasingly use mobile person-to-person payments (P2P) in their everyday lives. As of this summer, Bank of America customers were using P2P more than 3 million times per month.
Q: What findings surprised you the most?
A: The Friends Again Report revealed many insights that surprised us. More than 50 percent of the population has seen a friendship end over money. And we aren’t talking about a lot of money – it can be small amounts that cause increased tension. The report reveals that 43 percent of consumers would be willing to end a relationship with a friend for not paying them back. Of those, nearly 40 percent say they would end a friendship over $100 or less. Clearly, there is a fundamental stress on the health of relationships when it comes to people borrowing money and paying it back.
Q: I noticed there are some findings by age group. Did you come find anything interesting across gender?
A: The Friends Again Report findings yielded that men are more likely than women to say money causes stress in a friendship (50% vs. 38%) and fear losing a friendship over money owed (39% vs. 28). Yet, women (47%) are more likely than men (38%) to say they would be willing to cut ties with a friend for not paying them back. When reminding friends to pay them back, men (62%) are more likely than women (51%) to confront their friends in-person. This may be why women (34%) are more likely than men (26%) to believe sending money via mobile eliminates the awkwardness of face-to-face confrontation.
Q: What would you say to cynics who think this is just another marketing ploy by Bank of America? There's no real research here? It's just to promote Bank of America’s mobile app?
A: It’s no secret that friendships and money don’t often mix – but the Friends Again report findings truly quantify the tremendous toll on friendships from owing – and being owed – money. From what we can tell, there are millions of friendships that are strained because of billons of dollars that are owed. Among a range of uncomfortable scenarios, asking a friend to settle up was second (48 percent) only to forgetting someone’s name (54 percent). The awkwardness and uncomfortably is real.
With Pay Back a Friend Day, we are looking to create a cultural movement that raises awareness about this issue, provides guidance on how to approach someone you owe money to or owes you money and share a solution that is fast, easy and secure for paying people back. Of course we want people to download and take advantage of the convenience of our mobile app, but more importantly, we want to connect with people to help solve their problems – in this case, restoring friendships. Settling debts via mobile can help friends re-establish connections that they might have feared were lost forever.
Q: As a follow up are there things here other brands in other industries can take away from the findings?
A: The Friends Again Report is just one example of how we at Bank of America are listening to the needs of our customers. If we take our data and look at it through the lens of the entire country, it could mean that millions of people owe billions of dollars to their friends – and it is taking a toll on relationships. If all it takes is the repayment of a small debt -- whether someone forgets they owed money or just didn’t have money on hand to pay a bill -- we want to help mend relationships so people can be friends again. Brands across industries should take the time to listen to their customers, learn the challenges they are facing and find a way to help ease them.