Representing the generation born between 1977 and 1995, millennials are taking their place in history in size and influence as the impact of Gen X and baby boomers begins to fade.
To explore the wealth advice preferences of this 83 million-strong generation, Broadridge Financial Solutions and The Center for Generational Kinetics (CGK) conducted a joint survey of 1,003 U.S. respondents this year. The results, published in “Decoding the Millennial Mindset,” uncovered some unexpected insights for financial firms looking to grow relationships with millennial prospects.
Topsy Turvy Over Risk
The most educated generation to date, millennials could be expected to know that a well-diversified portfolio that includes stocks, bonds and mutual funds is a good idea. Instead, the survey showed they prefer savings accounts over other categories. Able to tolerate greater long-term market fluctuations than Gen Xers and boomers, younger investors can assume a corrosive degree of investment risk if they miss out on the compounding advantages of long-term growth investing.
However, they really aren’t particularly risk averse. When asked about their confidence in other investments, 30% of millennials favored riskier private equity, compared with 21% of Gen Xers and 16% of boomers. Understanding the basics of investing is critical for this cohort, because they are more likely than Gen Xers and boomers to be invested in workplace retirement plans. In a word, they need portfolio guidance.
Age and Experience: Advisor Advantages
Today the average age of a financial advisor is 51 while the average millennial is just turning 30 — more than two decades of separation. However, unlike baby boomers, millennials never endured a confrontational generation gap. Rather than “not trusting anyone over 30,” they generally look at parents, teachers and mentors with respect and admiration.
Although 69% of millennials don’t have an advisor, they identified “experience” as the single-most important attribute for any advisor they’d hire.
Such experience will prove invaluable for those millennials on the receiving end of the looming $30 trillion wealth transfer from their boomer parents. Since 40% surveyed expect to receive an inheritance themselves, enterprising advisors have a reason to ask their clients for a different kind of referral: leads to their own children. For their part, millennials like the idea. While only 20% have met their parents’ financial advisor, more than half said they would consider working with the family professional on their own portfolio needs.
As millennials enter their prime earning years and tackle their vastly expanding financial responsibilities, there are manifold opportunities for firms to introduce their capabilities and engage these younger prospects. Those financial service providers who help them make their first major retirement and investing decisions now can lay the groundwork for a new, trusting and loyal client base as millennials gain wealth and influence over the decades ahead.
When asked what it would take for millennials to save more, millennials outperformed the other two generations in demonstrating energy and readiness to increase their investment commitments. Compared with only 34% of Gen Xers and 33% of boomers, 40% of millennials stated that recommendations from a financial advisor would motivate them to invest or save more.
Technology With Heart
Favoring a blend of human contact and regular digital communications, millennials are effectively the first bionic generation of investors. Following initial trust-building meetings and phone calls with their human advisors, millennials favor a much more robust communications menu of digital tools than Gen Xers or boomers.
Compared with only 46% of Gen Xers and 42% of boomers, 68% of millennials believe a combination of emails, texts and social media updates from their advisor contributes to greater trust. Hungrier for advice and insights than previous generations, they prefer their communications to be more frequent too. An enthusiastic 41% want updates on a variety of subjects from their advisor across time periods ranging from daily to biweekly. This contrasts with an anemic 32% of Gen Xers and 24% of boomers.
The bionic generation provides a powerful complement to evolving bionic advice, or robo-advice, models, too. Compared to a mere 14% of Gen Xers and 5% of boomers, 21% of millennials say they trust information gathered from robo-advisors.
Even the best organizations struggle to build and measure effective client communications campaigns.
Through bionic advice capabilities, financial firms can relegate routine tasks like investor education to the bots of artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive computing. Large vendor libraries of engaging and compliant educational content can provide an inexhaustible supply of digital campaigns designed to track, nurture and score investor interest based on which links they click.
Firms can then better deploy their licensed professionals to solving thornier client challenges while also gaining greater capacity to manage more clients. Bionic advisors are also good for do-it-yourselfers who want to make better investment decisions while still having an experienced pro look over their shoulders.
Today’s millennials want to wake up, make coffee and ask their personal digital assistant (PDA) how their portfolio is doing. If the market plunged, they’ll expect their PDA to anticipate their concerns and provide an educational message reminding them that short-term declines have been off-set by the proven growth history of long-term equities.
Financial advisors don’t have to reinvent themselves. Once they understand how millennials view their wealth preferences, they can combine their age and experience with enough marketing intelligence and data-driven technologies to attract, engage and convert the next great generation of investors.
Chris Perry is president of Global Sales, Marketing and Client Solutions at Broadridge Financial Solutions. A member of the Executive Committee, he oversees all client and market-facing activities globally and is responsible for delivering the company’s annual sales targets spanning all business units and product lines. He previously held numerous management and commercial roles at Thomson Reuters and Thomson Financial, and before that worked in institutional trading and retail brokerage. He currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for NPower, is a sponsor of the Women on Wall Street Association and serves on the executive board of BritishAmerican Business.