From the September 2008 issue of Boomer Market Advisor • Subscribe!

Talking tech about the next generation

Generation Y is one of the fastest growing segments of the work force. Born between the late '70s and early '90s, Generation Y is the most diverse and technologically sophisticated generation the marketplace has seen. They understand the financial markets, are serial entrepreneurs, and are most likely the recipients of the great wealth transfer we all talk about. As a financial advisor, it's a market you can't ignore. The future is here without any signs of slowing. The question is, "From a technology standpoint, are we ready to serve this future customer base?"

The use of instant messaging and wireless devices are transformational, but what percentage of advisors is consistently using them in customer interactions? The technological sophistication of Generation Y will drive advisors to become more advanced. While some advisors are challenged by technology, Generation Y has worked with technology all of their lives and don't know how to work or interact any differently.

The following items you should think about now to ensure you're well positioned to meet the needs of this growing market segment:

  1. Understand Gen Y technology - Don't know how to pick up or create a text message? Having trouble with your iPod? Don't know what Facebook or MySpace is? Take the time to learn about these new innovations so you can stay abreast of the latest and greatest solutions.
  2. If you don't, ask your service providers (broker-dealers, custodians, other technology providers) - Most of you are not likely to build your own technology (nor should you). Get an understanding of where your service providers are heading with their technology innovations and whether or not they're prepared to meet the challenges that come with serving the next generation.
  3. Take one step at a time - We're talking about Gen Y, but some of you may be challenged to provide customers with a basic suite of technology tools for the other generations you serve. Stop worrying - we're past the Internet bubble and your customers are indifferent to placing trades online, so it won't mess with their plan. Encourage them to "touch" their money whenever they want via the Internet.
  4. Your future customers are on deck - They're likely the sons and daughters of your current customers. It might not be too long before the child that's "always on their cell phone" inherits some or all of their parents' wealth. Are you positioned to retain those assets?

Much as other generations have impacted our economy and culture, Generation Y is poised to do the same. It's important that advisors be able to serve this next generation in a way in which Gen Y is accustomed. Technology not only plays a pivotal role in determining success in serving this market space, but will be necessary for advisors' very survival.

Marc Butler is managing director with iNautix (USA) LLC, an affiliate of Pershing LLC in Jersey City, N.J. He can be reached at mbutler@inautix.com.

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