Millennials Want Their Financial Advice Right Now, and It Better Look Pretty

Thanks to mobile technology, millennials expect service at their fingertips in every domain

What do we want? Advice! When do we want it? NOW! (Photo: AP) What do we want? Advice! When do we want it? NOW! (Photo: AP)

What do millennials want from financial advice? Increasingly, the answer is computer over human, according to Forrester Research expert Davis Janowski, speaking at the recent Technology Tools for Today conference in Las Vegas. Forrester's research shows that nearly a third of millennials are OK with robo investment advice, versus 11% of investors overall.

Thanks to the increasing consumerization of technology brought about by the ease of smartphone and tablet use, millennials expect a higher level of service from all their service providers, including financial advisors. Moreover, the next generation of investors expect a multichannel experience, such as the ability to switch between self-service applications on their laptop, phone or tablet and working with a live advisor.

(Related: How Ron Carson, Others Lure Clients With Latest Tech)

When it comes to the apps millennials prefer, design is key, perhaps even more than function. Janowski citied the robo-advisor Wealthfront and the app Acorns, which allows users to save and invest small amounts, as examples of millennial-friendly applications with responsive designs that are easy to use regardless of end user device.

How do you know what will best appear to this audience? Janowski cited A/B testing — offering and tracking responses from two different versions of the same function — to best determine what resonates and what should be scrapped.

Being able to attract — and retain — millennials will be critically important as their aging parents transfer wealth. Noted advisor Ron Carson of Carson Group related at t3 how he lost a nine-figure portfolio when his client’s millennial children inherited the family wealth and brought it to an advisor more attuned to their needs. His advice is to let clients choose their own path.

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“Millennials will say they don’t have time for an appointment, but want information when they want it. If they can get what they need from the portal at 3 a.m. Christmas morning, that’s great,” Carson said.

“Advisors who are worried about being replaced by tech have had their own ‘Kodak moment,’” Carson added — that moment being the sudden realization that they are becoming irrelevant.

The combination of social media and fintech — crowdsourcing and crowdfunding — present another investing opportunity interesting to millennials. It has been estimated that crowdfunding raised more money than venture capital did in 2016, and more than one in five adults in the US have already participated in some form of crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

Bob Veres, editor of Inside Information, credited the application design for at least part of this growth, stating that 87% of crowdsourced donors believe that the platform itself helped them feel more connected with the projects they support.

Veres, presenting at t3 on the future of the broker-dealer, suggested the crowdfunding trend could lead to the internet becoming a superconductor of capital, perhaps leading to the decline of the corporate form itself. Citing a decline by half in the number of public companies over the past two decades, Veres envisions business entities just posting their capital needs and desired terms for borrowing online, with whoever has the best plan winning the deal.

Every advisor  — human or robo or a combination of the two — will find the need to increasingly incorporate artificial intelligence into the tools they use. The generation raised on Siri will expect the same natural-language interface whether there’s an advisor or a computer on the other end of the conversation. How will you know you’re winning? Check the “likes” in the app store.

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