As millennials start to amass wealth and hit key milestones like getting married and having children, the question of how to manage their finances becomes ever more important. While traditionally, this age group might have turned to financial advisers at this stage, the proliferation of online solutions like robo-advisers means that advisers have to work harder to attract millennial clients.
We speak to millennial advisers Nick Martin of Smythe and Walter, Ellie Clark of Ashlea Financial Planning and Ross Jefferies of Panoramic Wealth Management (and co-host of The Bull Sessions podcast) to find out what financial advisers can do to better engage with millennials.
Use technology in a way that makes millennials feel involved
Nick Martin believes that millennials have a strong desire to feel involved in the financial advice process and believes that technological solutions can help with this. He uses his own personal experiences as an example.
“I’m in my early 30s, and when I want to look at my pensions I will go to the provider’s websites and look for it… the annual statement that arrives through my letterbox may act as a trigger, but will usually just be put into the filing box,” he says. “Having an app and the ability to access information via a mobile phone is fantastic, but it is more important that the app works well and actually adds value.”
Focus on millennials’ lifestyle rather than their age
For Martin, it’s important to think beyond the age of the client. After all, life experiences can sometimes differ massively and treating everyone in this age group as an individual as far as possible can bring more value to the experience.
“I think the important thing is to focus on a client’s lifestage rather than simply their age, as there will be lots of changes between the ages of 22 and 36 (entering work, buying a house, starting a family, establishing career, etc)”, he says. “Advice needs to be focused on where the client is up to and the potential future changes.”
Be relevant and timely
Ellie Clark believes it’s important that financial services make sure their communications with millennials are relevant.
“If these age categories do not see financial information as relevant, they are unlikely to pay attention to it”, she says. “There is very little time here to delve into jargon and filter through other information to find the information they require. I believe using technology to streamline processes and create quick and easy transactions and advice could help these age categories.”
Think like an influencer
Ross Jefferies believes that advisers should be looking beyond their industry. One industry he thinks does an effective job at engaging millennials is influencer marketing – and he feels advisers could learn from their success.
“Influencer marketing is where companies hire celebrities – or sometimes so-called celebrities – to post on social media while wearing or using a certain product,” he explains. “People do connect with famous people and trust them often with little or no proof of them to be honest about what it is that they are advertising. However, I do think it may be a way of making financial services a bit more appealing.”
Demonstrate your value to clients
When dealing with millennial clients, it can be hard to justify why you are charging the prices you are. Martin believes it’s essential to demonstrate how you are adding value now and make it clear how this will help them in the future.
“Given that a potential client may have the option and ability to do something directly online, an initial fee or seemingly high ongoing fees can be a major obstacle to overcome,” he explains. “Sometimes the value of advice can be quantified immediately, but often this may not be possible until much later in time.”
Clark suggests advisers introduce some flexibility into their pricing structure for millennial clients.
“When considering alternatives, it is important that we don’t simply revert back to an older commission-style model,” she says. “I remember when I set up my first pension around the age of 19, I was given an illustration showing that the adviser would continue to receive payments for this over the next 40 years, despite there being no obligation for any future contact. Needless to say, this wasn’t a particularly appealing proposition!”
Clark suggests that advisers could charge based on circumstances: “As your circumstances change and you grow your portfolio, the fees should adapt with it,” she says. “Perhaps instead of looking at ages for fees, we should be looking at circumstances and stages of life.”
Communicate on their terms
In a fast-paced world, advisers should be prepared to interact with clients in the way that best suits them.
Martin says that while most of his clients still communicate face-to-face, with additional emails or phone calls, some clients prefer other options.
“There are some clients like parents with very young children who find it easier respond to a text or WhatsApp message when they get a moment rather than answering a phone call,” he explains. “If it isn’t time sensitive and an immediate response isn’t needed, then a text message can often work well as the client can take as much time as they need before replying, rather than potentially catching them off-guard with a phone call.
“However, it is important to have a structure in place for all “official” communication,” he continues. “I also feel that it is important to limit the “alternate messaging” options for any particular client – whether it is text, Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, etc to avoid messages/conversations getting missed.”
While Jefferies sees the value of communicating with clients through social media, he does recognise the limitations when it comes to fully connecting with clients.
“Face to face advice won’t die out because I think if you do meetings over Skype you lose part of the human touch,” he says. “For me, this is why robo-advice hasn’t grown more substantially. I also think the idea of all millennials being glued to their phones with no scope for deep conversations is not only patronsing but also inaccurate especially if we were in a meeting about our financial future.”
Think like a millennial
There’s no getting away from the fact that understand millennials, you have to step into their shoes. At the very least, Jefferies believes, you have to interact and talk to millennials.
“I have seen too many articles about “what do millennials think..” only for the article to be asking those who are not millennials,” he says. “This grinds my gears more than anything else about trying to engage with a younger generation. The best way to solve this is for the next generation of advisers to be brought into firms and given their time to speak and be heard by the more experienced advisers.”