The Millennial Paradox
What do we know about this massive group of people?
Born between the years 1980-2000, Millennials are arguably the most talked-about generation in history, and they currently represent the largest adult segment in North America at 92 million individuals (or 25% of America’s overall population). So what do we know about this massive group of people? The general perception is that millennials are lazy, entitled, and have allowed technology to erode their in-person social skills. However, if you ask the millennials themselves you will hear a different story; most likely that they are adaptive, open to sharing ideas, and want to make the world a better place.
Who’s telling the truth? To be completely honest, all of these stereotypes exist within the millennial population, but they definitely won’t hold true for this entire group of individuals. With a population this large, the visibility and impact of millennials is impossible to ignore, so it’s natural to make far-fetched generalizations about the entire population. In the case of wealth management, the practice of abiding by these substantial generalizations in order to build relationships with millennials has created a massive disconnect between wealth managers and the millennial population.
Needless to say, millennials are posing quite the brainteaser for wealth management firms. They are difficult to reach by traditional marketing channels, and up until this point they have not been a profitable client for wealth managers; the effort of reaching millennials simply was not worth the pay-off. This combination of confusion and lack of benefits resulted in many wealth managers just ignoring the millennial population altogether over the past few years. However, millennial wealth accumulation is only just beginning and it’s important for wealth managers to understand the potential looming on the horizon.
It is expected that by 2020, the millennial generation will control up to $24 trillion in assets to invest. Keep in mind that in 2020, most millennials will still be awaiting their portion of the largest wealth transfer in history (boomer wealth to millennial wealth) and a majority of millennials will still have their prime earning years yet to occur.
At this point, we’re looking at a group of 92 million individuals who are just beginning to acquire a substantial portion of the wealth in America, who have a stronger desire than ever to create their own businesses, and who don’t seem too keen on setting up their long-term financial plan through the methodology of traditional wealth management. Clearly, there is a need for change but figuring out where and how to make this change has proven to be very difficult.
With this disconnect in mind, we believe wealth managers need to remember that the buzzword “millennials” actually represents a group of individuals. However, we also understand that wealth managers can’t realistically build 92 million different offerings to increase their millennial client base. So we believe the best course of action is to begin by identifying a few major themes that are currently driving financial habits and behaviors of a majority of millennials (keeping in mind that these are NOT stereotypes that apply to every single millennial):
They are technologically inclined
Millennials are the first truly, digitally native generation, growing up with technology at their fingertips. As such their expectations of digital channels and user experience are vastly different to those of previous generations. We have seen a number of Digital-only wealth managers enter the ecosystem, including Wealthfront and Betterment. The interesting point is that although Digital is likely to be the main channel of preference, millennials still want a human interaction when it comes to investing their money. As such, wealth managers need be able to cater to the millennials expectations through their channel of choice.
They are a very sociable generation
It is not uncommon to see millennials catching-up in real life while also chatting on their mobile devices and simultaneously posting on multiple social media platforms at once. It should come as no surprise then, that millennials value the advice and opinions of their peer groups. Moreover, they want a sense of community and to understand what ‘people like me’ are doing with their money.
They are fiscally “clouded”
Having lived through the most recent financial crisis, millennials tend to be more conservative with their finances and perhaps rightfully so. Scepticism is in their DNA. However, studies have shown that on average, millennials lack the financial knowledge of their parents, so one could argue that their financial behavior stems from naivety. Wealth managers can play a key role in helping millennials understand their money and the impact good financial advice can have on their longer term financial health.
Not all about the money
Unlike past generations, money is not something that millennials consider to be a sole indicator of success. Research has shown that millennials are much more likely to value an employer that is socially responsible than to follow a higher pay-check. They crave more than fiscal incentive; they want a work-life balance and put family first. They want the opportunity to travel, career progression and opportunities to give back. This might be the reason why millennials tend to hop around in their careers rather than working their way up in a single organization.
Capco believes that the best way to acquire and serve millennial customers is through a human-centered approach, focusing not on selling products but on helping customers through their wealth journey. By really understanding what millennial customers want, banks and wealth managers can ensure that their offering meets their demands. We believe this concept could fill the current gap between traditional wealth management and millennials, as it would bring to wealth management many of the facets that millennials have immediately embraced in other industries (such as increased customization, advanced technology, and greater transparency).