Companies are currently bending themselves out of shape in an effort to attract the 83.1 million Millennial [Source: 2015 U.S. Census Bureau] in the US to their offering or services. But what are they really doing to get to know Millennials as a group?
The Financial Services Industry could do well to recognize that Millennials are very specific about what they want from their Financial Advisors:
This survey highlights the importance of really understanding what Millennials want to do with their money, and what kind of relationship they want with their financial advisor.
The message: Get to know Millennials. Understanding the Millennials behavioral style will enable messaging to be targeted to the individual. Regardless of their age or generation – are the Millennials naturally spenders or savers, goal driven or content to build a balanced life, risk takers or cautious, trusting or skeptical etc.? Put another way, Millennials can be your “Millionaire Next Door” type who is frugal or that person who lives large, spending all they have in the belief tomorrow will take care of itself. There have been these types of people across all generations.
With this insight, find the most appropriate medium to converse with them. Revealing their behavioral style, core talents, and decision-making approach will ensure you get their attention if you translate that knowledge into a personalized offering. Remember, Millennials now represent the largest generation in the United States.
For every person, regardless of generation, there is always a lot going on below the surface that is motivating his or her life and financial behavior. Generally, these behaviors cannot be easily or quickly measured by human observation. This then makes it difficult to know how extreme and/or predictable the behavior will be.
A structured behavioral finance approach benefits both the advisor and the client by making the advisory process more tangible and robust. This is achieved by both the advisor and client participating in an objective financial behavior discovery process when the planning process starts.
A key point that financial advisors must always remember is that their behavioral style will influence how they perceive the investment markets, their clients, and the advice they give. Research studies show that advisors can have “Over-Confidence” and “Myopic Loss Aversion.” Therefore, advisors will have a behavioral bias that may influence their recommendations. This together with a population segment bias about Millennials, ensures the financial services industry will be unlikely to attract any new younger clients, regardless of demographic. In other words, do you already have a bias towards Millennials based on all the adverse publicity they are receiving? It’s a question worth asking and answering.
The Millennials are not dummies. According to a new survey undertaken by T. Rowe Price:
The 18 to 34 year-old set is better about tracking their spending and sticking to a budget than Baby Boomers. 75% track their expenses carefully. 76% of Millennials stick to a budget; 40% of Millennials have increased their 401(k) contributions in the past twelve months. Source: Millennial Investment Behavior.
Uncovering and understanding the behavioral style of Millennial clients and how they want to use their money allows the Financial Advisor to target their services more effectively. Harvard Business Review in their article “Stop Designing for Millennials” highlights the importance of understanding customer attitudes and behaviors:
Defining an ideal customer for a potential product or service using broader human themes allows you to create solutions that resonate with a larger group of people. ..Far too many companies take a “product-out” view of segmentation, where they essentially ask their customers to line up around their products by demographics such as age or income. They should take an “outside-in” view that orients its products around their customers’ attitudes and behaviors instead. Meeting the functional and emotional needs of a group of people is much more likely to generate transformative results than targeting a generational cohort with tenuous links. Source: Stop Designing for Millennials HBR
An example of this approach can be seen in the fall off of the banking system as we know it.
Almost all (88%) of Millennials do their banking online and half of those use their smartphone to do so. This experience leads about three-fourths of Millennials (73%) to be “more excited about a new offering in financial services from Google, Amazon, Apple, Paypal or Square” than from a nationwide bank. Since both the technology and the financial wherewithal to offer such services exists within these firms, the study’s prediction of “seismic” change in the near term future of banking appears to be at least a realistic vision of the future.” Source: “Millennials Invest More Time in Digital Banking,” emarketer.com, March 25, 2014.
As a financial advisor:
- You must learn how to communicate with Millennials on their unique terms defined by their behavioral style (regardless of the communication vehicle).
- If you know the Millennials behavioral style, then you know how to frame information to attract them.
- Get to know where your inherent bias and behavior sits. Then learn how to manage both.
- Stop reading Millennial-focused press clippings that cause undue bias or incorrect perceptions about them.
- Get to know the Millennials already in your world. That insight will be invaluable to what kind of an advisor you will be to your Millennial clients.