A new report by MyPrivateBanking finds that wealthy millennials are showing some striking contradictions in their digital attitudes toward financial matters that wealth managers have to consider when aiming to win younger clients.

On the one hand, millennials are all about using mobile first, loving text and chat, and being intrigued by robo-advisors. On the other, they display some very conservative attitudes and behavior about digital banking and wealth management.

MyPrivateBanking conducted a panel survey in five key markets — the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany and Switzerland — addressing the digital needs and preferences of 1,000 millennials generally with at least $200,000 of household income.

The analysis comprised three wealth segments: mass affluent, affluent and high net worth. For the U.S. respondents, this broke down, respectively, as up to $500,000, $500,000 to $1 million and more than $1 million of investable assets.

Survey respondents wanted innovative communication channels. The high-net-worth segment in particular reported contacting their financial advisor via communication channels such as social media, text or video chat, and messengers.

According to the report, 73% of respondents, and 78% of Americans, used their wealth managers’ mobile apps, but many were unhappy with these, especially the high-net-worth segment, 34% of whom said they refused to use the banking apps.

Asked how satisfied they were with specific functions their bank offered through its mobile channels (14 functions in all), the U.S. subsample had an average satisfaction level of 3.57 on a scale of not at all satisfied (1) to extremely satisfied (5).

Payment options scored highest, 3.96, followed by security and encryption standards, 3.91. Live chat with bank/financial advisor and gamification scored lowest, 3.32 and 3.13.

Robo-advisors had strong potential among well-off millennials as long as human advice was available, according to the survey. It found that awareness of robo-advisors among respondents was at a relatively high level, though a lot of variance showed up among country segments:

  • 45% of Americans had heard or read about robos vs. 39% of those in other countries
  • 30% of Americans were unfamiliar with the concept vs. 41%
  • 9% of Americans knew a lot about robo-advisors vs. 11%
  • 16% of Americans knew them in detail vs. 8.5%

“Compared to the other key wealth management markets, U.S. millennials show a greater awareness of robo-advice, probably due to the maturity of the robo market,” the report’s author, Carmela Melone, said in an email message.

“Interestingly, this does not necessarily lead to a greater openness towards robos: 21% state they do not think they will use such a tool, compared to 14% in the other countries.”

Seventy-nine percent of Americans who had at least heard about robos said they were already using such a platform or would consider doing so, compared with 86% in other countries.

According to the survey, actual usage among those who were aware of robos was at 40%. However, 60% expected accessibility to a human advisor when investing with a robo-advisor.

Melone said U.S. millennials were very demanding in this regard, which was “bad news for pure robos.”

“U.S. millennials do also show a greater demand for many robo features and capabilities, such as investment account aggregation, a demo account to try out the tool beforehand, and a comprehensive and well-designed FAQ section, to name only three.”

The survey also compared the country-specific results and found that in many areas, cross-country differences were relatively low for respondents.

U.S. millennials were mostly iOS users, as were their U.K. counterparts, while Swiss and German millennials preferred Android. Sixty-one percent of Americans said they used iOS, while 36% used Android.

U.K. millennials constituted the largest country segment that uses smart speakers, smartwatches and smartphones for financial matters. When investing with a robo platform, 20% expected regular meetings or calls with a human advisor.

French millennials were heavy tablet users, and the only country segment that preferred desktop over smartphone. Ninety percent of French respondents were investors, and they formed the largest group of robo users.

More than a third of German millennials said they did not use their wealth manager’s apps. Their chief reasons were concerns about their personal data and security.

Forty-five percent said they had never heard of robo-advisors.

Half of Swiss millennials said they had never heard about robo-advisors, but 65% said they could imagine using such a tool in the future.

Advisor Takeaways

What do these findings imply for wealth managers hoping to add millennials to their client base?

The report said that although mobile is a must, wealth managers should not bury the desktop yet. The desktop computer remains an important element for personal finance, so wealth managers are well advised to make strong efforts on their websites and banking platforms.

In addition, wealth managers should provide relevant apps and tools. Many millennials in the survey complained that they were not offered the right apps. Twenty-seven percent of the overall sample and 34% of high-net-worth millennials said no app was offered they would consider using. Besides the most basic features, they expected better financial planning and analysis tools.

The report said wealth managers should offer a smart speaker as 17% of the millennials already use them for their financial matters. The market for these devices is growing and will continue to increase the demand for finance apps.

Finally, wealth managers should invest in hybrid robo-advice. The robo-advice trend is here to stay, the report said, and the vast majority of millennials are already using or would consider using such a tool in the future.

For three in five millennials, however, the accessibility of a human advisor, someone who can be contacted in case of questions relating to their investments, is a prerequisite.

— Check out Bruckenstein Warns Advisors: Beware of ‘Crappy Portal Syndrome’ on ThinkAdvisor.