It’s impossible to ignore millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 2000. They are the largest generation in U.S. history, numbering nearly 80 million.
And, although they don’t have significant assets today, it’s projected millennials will control $7 trillion in liquid assets by 2020 and likely inherit more than $40 trillion from their parents and grandparents.
Over the last year we have studied millennials; reviewed the research, interviewed them (including financial advisors who are millennials) and considered their impact on our industry.
We believe millennials will profoundly change the financial advisory business in three important ways, as discussed below, and have summarized our findings and recommendations in a whitepaper, Marketing to Millennials.
- Millennials are the first generation where many will lead non-linear lives. Faced with the likelihood that they will work well into their 70’s, millennials don’t want to wait until then to travel, volunteer, or simply take time to reflect. Rather than living their lives in the linear sequence that their parents and grandparents followed – school, work, and retirement – millennials will transition in and out of work, perhaps trying a different career, or returning to school.
This change will require financial institutions to rethink how they create financial plans and manage assets for their millennial clients. More than previous generations, their needs and expenses may vary over time, and they will want to save not only for old age but also for the periods in their lives when they may not be working. One of the challenges will be getting them to start saving young, when they will have the advantage of time, a good reason to consider reaching out to them now.
- For millennials, business and personal relationships often develop simultaneously. While traditionally advisors have gotten to know their clients first on a professional basis and then moved to a personal relationship, Google and social media have turned this inside out. It’s not unusual today to know quite a bit about someone’s personal life before even meeting them.
This means financial advisors need to have a social media presence, and let millennials know who they are, what they do, and that they understand their needs. On the positive side this is a generation that believes in sharing. They prefer to find professionals—doctors, lawyers and financial services firms—through their friends’ recommendations. And, of course, their definition of friend is broad, extending to anyone with whom they interact on social media.
- Millennials communicate in more ways than previous generations ever imagined. Advisors will need to be able to talk with their millennial clients via text, Skype, or Whatsapp. In addition to using new forms of communication, they should recognize that millennials are more informal when it comes to dress and speech.
Millennials’ lack of formality does not mean they are any less concerned about their financial futures. It may mean, however, that they find the paperwork that is standard operating procedure at nearly all financial services firms antiquated or that the traditional client meeting is done online or at lunch. They will expect information at their fingertips, as it is in other parts of their lives.
Whether you like change or not, it is upon us. Financial advisors that ignore these changes do so at their peril.
Note: this post is adapted from an article that first appeared in the author’s newsletter.
Libby J. Dubick has more than 30 years of experience in financial services marketing, strategy and distribution. She is an expert in the financial advisory market, and has developed and managed original studies on advisors’ product usage and best practices as well as on investor attitudes. Previously, she was a Vice President at Goldman Sachs & Co., where she created a communications system for the firm’s $20 billion institutional funds’ business. She can be reached at Dubick & Associates, Ltd.