Young investors seem to have a “you get what you pay for” mentality, according to a recent report from Corporate Insight that surveyed retail investors at full-service brokerage firms.
“They have high expectations. They want a little bit more of everything,” Anneli Lefranc, an analyst at Corporate Insight, told ThinkAdvisor on Tuesday. Some of those things Gen Y say they want: more frequent communication in whatever format they prefer, more forms of communication, access to specialists to talk about whatever issues they’re having in their portfolio, and advisors who understand their goals.
However, according to Lefranc, “they were less likely than all age groups to want lower fees and commissions.”
That doesn’t mean they aren’t sensitive to pricing, she stressed—everyone is—but she said, “if they get the service they want, they’re willing to pay for it.”
Among the overall sample of respondents, which included over 1,500 individual investors surveyed in December 2013, lowering fees is the No. 1 way brokerage firms could increase satisfaction. However, Gen Y respondents indicated some non-financial opportunities for brokerage firms to reach out to younger investors.
“One of the really important things that we noticed from the generational perspective is that the younger generation tends to meet with their financial advisor more frequently,” Lefranc said. “They really want a lot of interaction with their financial advisor in person, but also, when it comes to communicating via other methods such as email, phone calls, video conferencing, even text messages and social media, they’re actually more likely to communicate with their financial advisor than the other generations.”
Even though younger investors crave interaction with their advisors and meet with them more frequently than older generations, Lefranc said the advisors are usually the ones initiating communication.
She said that was due to older generations already being in the retirement phase of their relationship with the advisor. “They have more time. They’re more likely to contact the financial advisor, but also the financial advisor is less invested in the relationship since there’s not as much of a growth phase to look forward to.”
A key takeaway though is that while older investors might get frustrated with advisors who follow up a phone call with an email, a tweet and a text message, advisors “can’t overcommunicate” with millennials.
“When we asked the investors specifically what they want from their advisors to improve their level of satisfaction, we saw close to half the sample of that younger age group wanted to communicate more frequently, even though they’re the ones that are in touch most frequently—basically you can’t overcommunicate with them,” Lefranc said. “They also want a broader range of methods to communicate; even though they already have a broad range, they want even more.”
She added that millennial investors will shop around to find the firm that offers the best services. Although they are not as concerned with fees that are justified by service, one way firms can differentiate themselves is to keep the fee system simple.
“The big competitors that we have right now, for example…their selling point is simplicity of fees,” Lefranc said. “One thing full-service brokerage firms could do is really simplify the fee system for the younger generation.”
A high-quality website is another important factor. “Navigation and design is the big thing, and younger generations are sensitive to that,” Lefranc said. “They’re Internet natives so having a good design is very important, but also they want variety.”
For example, she noted, the research shows retirement planning tools were highly valued by Gen Y “even though they might not be planning for that, they want to know that all these choices are available. It’s almost like a validation that they have access to the best tools for their needs today and in the future.”
Lefranc added that at least in this survey, younger investors were more likely to come from a “higher socio-economic status than you would expect. Typically they have more assets to invest than we would have thought, for example, 30 years ago of the young generation.”
To get the segment of younger investors who are still building wealth, Lefranc said, firms should offer a hybrid solution of full service and technology.
Despite the ubiquity of smartphones, the survey found mobile capabilities were not considered as important as Web capabilities. Lefranc suggested that was because while mobile is important to younger investors, the majority of respondents were Gen Xers or boomers.
Almost three-quarters of Gen Y have used a mobile device to check their account in the last 12 months, Lefranc said, but among the overall sample, despite almost doubling since 2001, only 43% have done so.
“As younger investors become the core basis of brokerage firms’ clientele, we’ll see mobile become more important,” she said.
The top priority for mobile users is, of course, security, but Lefranc said access to real-time information and trading tools were also important. “It might seem surprising, but basically what the mobile user wants is access to everything they have on the website with an uncluttered design.”