Across our industry, millennial clients and wealth management professionals are driving meaningful shifts in how we do business, how we plan for and introduce technology, how we communicate and, surprisingly, how we define our roles in their financial lives.
Millennials will eventually receive a share of the largest wealth transfer in history. Building a thoughtful strategy for millennial clients is an important investment in the future of your business. While this requires a commitment of your time and resources, it’s essential for any advisor who’s serious about attracting the next generation of wealth.
Here are five tips for establishing and strengthening relationships with millennial investors.
1. Forget the Stereotypes
If I could offer only one single piece of advice on reaching millennials, it would be this—don’t underestimate this generation. While they have a unique perspective on life, experience has taught me that the less flattering stereotypes so often associated with this generation rarely hold true.
Millennials now represent the largest segment of the U.S. workforce, and their numbers are growing. According to the Pew Research Center, there were a total of 71 million millennials in the U.S. in mid-2016, compared to 74 million baby boomers. If Pew Research Center projections are accurate, that means these young professionals and entrepreneurs will surpass their baby boomer parents and become the most populous generation in the country sometime next year!
2. Embrace and Humanize Financial Technology
Technology platforms such as robo-advisors will continue to evolve and offer what may seem like compelling and convenient features for computer-savvy millennials who are used to doing everything online. But on its own, financial technology can’t offer the most valuable aspect of wealth management—personalized advice from a trusted financial professional who has a deep understanding of a client’s unique needs. Incorporating best-in-class technological solutions into your practice can combine the digital experience with individualized advice, demonstrating greater value for not only clients, but also your firm’s team members. Integrating user-friendly financial planning technology solutions with your firm’s investment management, wealth planning and trust administration systems enables your colleagues to interpret information more holistically, make better-informed decisions and communicate more clearly and effectively with clients about whether or not they’re on track to meet long-term goals.
3. Build Out Services You Currently Offer and Add Services You Don’t Offer
There may be services you don’t currently offer, but which millennials will appreciate. For example, millennials feel stronger than their older counterparts about making investment choices that align their social values with their portfolios. Advisors can demonstrate more value for millennial investors by emphasizing socially responsible investing strategies that take advantage of Environmental, Social and Governance filters. Advisors can also help millennial investors incorporate philanthropic contributions into their wealth management plans.
You might also consider introducing new value-added services that align with these younger clients’ aspirations. Millennials generally embrace entrepreneurship. They also have a thirst for knowledge and are adventurous, so they tend to actively seek out new learning experiences. Advisors should consider adding non-traditional services that appeal to these characteristics. For example, you could hold local networking events or host workshops conducted by successful entrepreneurs who can serve as mentors to millennials. You can also go one step further and begin fostering relationships with future investors at a younger age by, for example, creating a young investors club for teens and preteens.
4. Build Trust
Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, according to the Pew Research Center, so the oldest millennials had only been in the workforce for a few years when the global financial crisis hit. As a result, this generation tends to view corporate America and Wall Street with a higher degree of skepticism than their baby boomer parents, born between 1946 and 1964. And nothing reflects this attitude more clearly than their low level of participation in the U.S. stock market.
On your road to building trust with millennial clients, it’s important to re-evaluate how and when you communicate and there’s complete transparency in all that you do to ensure your clients are confident. You can earn trust by providing thoughtful guidance wherever it feels appropriate, for example, walk millennial clients, step-by-step, through how to read and interpret investment statements and reports. Tax season is a wonderful opportunity to reach out to millennial clients to ensure they understand tax documents and remind them about tax-smart strategies you leveraged that year. Finally, remember to always solicit honest feedback from millennial investors.
5. Talk Business
Helping a family business owner develop a formal succession plan offers the perfect opportunity to engage the next generation; baby boomers preparing for retirement likely want to hand over the reins of the businesses they built to their millennial children. But be patient. Successful business owners sometimes assume that when the time is right, their successors will simply step up to fill their shoes or they just don’t know where to begin if they want to prepare the next generation. This presents a window of opportunity for knowledgeable wealth advisors to educate every generation involved in the family business, build a formal transition plan and serve as a neutral third party in family discussions.
Have conversations about succession planning early and often, and be sure the plan aligns with the company’s business goals and family governance structures. In my experience, with some encouragement and professional guidance, business owners usually see the value of inviting all stakeholders into the conversation and begin sharing financial information more generously, establishing clear benchmarks for the transition of their business. If additional expertise is needed, don’t hesitate to partner with an experienced tax attorney or succession-planning consultant. The stakes are too high to leave anything to chance.
Millennials are a force to be reckoned with—and that force is growing stronger every day. To ensure the ongoing success of their practices, advisors can take proactive steps to foster strong long-term relationships with members of this generation.
John M. Dowd is the CEO of Fiduciary Trust Company International.