As Gen Xers and millennials amass wealth through their own careers or inherit it from previous generations ($30 trillion is expected to transfer inter-generationally in the next few decades), they expect financial planning, reporting, communication and all other aspects of the wealth management process to be quick, easy to understand, efficient and ALWAYS accessible. Given that the average age of financial advisors in the United States is 59 years old, firms don’t just have to improve their service offering in the technology space to differentiate, they must provide cutting edge advancements daily to stay relevant.
At MainLine Private Wealth, younger clients are an important part of our business and overall growth strategy. Our younger advisors bring an understanding of how to work with this younger segment, helping to shape the client experience we deliver to Gen Xers and millennials through an enhanced focus on technology. What follows is an overview of the technology landscape and the role it plays in better engaging and retaining this younger audience, offering some tips on digital tools and techniques that can help advisory firms engage with younger clients in a meaningful and thoughtful way.
Evolving Tech Landscape And Why This Matters To Younger Clients
The world has changed due to the advancements in technology, as new digital tools come onto the marketplace, disrupting entire industries and the way we communicate and live our lives. For instance, 10 years ago, you likely had a Blackberry in your pocket, building an asset allocation model was a differentiator, investment data was on a quarterly delay, you never heard of “the cloud,” and texting was a secondary form of communication. Fast forward to today where a smartphone is an everyday necessity, client documents and materials can be securely backed up on the cloud, robo-advisors have turned diversification into a cheap commodity, information is instant and you are expected to be available 24/7. A lot has changed in the past decade. No profession—financial advising especially—is safe from the rapidly evolving technological landscape.
In the financial advisory industry, the vast majority of advisors still abide by an antiquated service model that does not fully integrate technology into their delivery systems. More often than not, younger generations are not interested in coming to an advisor’s office once every three months for an hour or more to sit down and review an extensive printed quarterly report. This is not how Gen Xers or millennials want to do business, creating an opportunity for forward looking advisory firms to build out a service model that caters to a younger audience.
In the past, it was too hard to maintain many client relationships and to remain hands on but technology now makes this easier and allows an advisor to stay connected with a client 24/7. This aligns with the current needs of younger clients, who want data in real time and want to be able to access it independently of a conversation with their advisor, which means a robust digital platform loaded with information related to their exact needs. While many clients may not know where to start, they often have goals in mind and need a blueprint to determine how to reach them. You can save the unimpressive 50-page financial plan and instead take a deep dive into their pain points, providing specific, actionable plans to remedy those issues on a digital platform that is user friendly and engaging.
For MainLine Private Wealth, this means providing instant access to investment data and analytics, better portfolio reporting with clearly stated performance, financial planning software that is practical in use, and above all else, a client portal with real-time connectivity so clients can see investments and access information anytime, anywhere. More specifically, we often prepare cash flow, budgetary and debt-focused plans using Money Guide Pro, which allows us to zero in on those areas for clients. We also find that the younger clients are accessing their trading information on Charles Schwab & Co. Inc. and reporting information on Black Diamond with greater frequency than the typical quarterly inquiry from our longstanding client base. The last piece is a client portal, which for many advisors is simply a necessary evil, but if utilized correctly can be an incredible way to exchange information securely and efficiently with clients.
Of course, receiving instant access to data in real time is only as valuable as the client’s understanding and their comfort with the delivery, which often means advisors must become comfortable with varied communication styles. While that might seem simplistic, it’s challenging for so many older advisors to communicate strictly via email, provide video conferencing later in the evening or even have requests for a face-to-face meeting rebuffed. At MainLine, we offer multiple WebEx sessions, conference calls or screen sharing to better suit the needs of Gen Xers’ and millennials’ scheduling conflicts and personal preferences. We have found through experience that creating an ideal balance of maximum information outflow and the right level of interaction has been crucial.
The Future To Servicing Younger Clients Is Having Younger Advisors On Your Staff
The majority of financial advisors began in this business before smartphones, fintech applications and the Internet changed the landscape. As a result, most built their business in a way that predates many technological advancements. Until recently, that model had been successful. With the great intergenerational wealth transfer on the horizon, advisory firms may want to focus on the next wave of clients if they want to continue to scale and remain successful. There is no better time than now to start implementing some changes.
At MainLine Private Wealth, we have focused on integrating a diverse technology stack, as mentioned above, into our business model to improve the speed and ease of our service to our clients. In fact, our younger clients come to us because we understand how the new wave of technology makes investing easier and more accessible for them. We know the technology well and believe that for an advisor to compete in this new world, providing value beyond investment management and asset allocation is crucial and the entire delivery model needs to be catered to how clients want to digest information.
Additionally, part of what attracts younger clients to our firm is the opportunity to engage with the younger advisors and analysts we have on staff not only because they are better equipped to understand their needs but also for continuity of care. There is something highly unsettling for many young clients when they consider that the advisor they engage today may be nearing retirement in just a few short years. This scenario may leave them as a house account, passed down to a less experienced service team or handed off to new advisor with whom they lack rapport. This important fact is often overlooked by advisory firms in the recruiting process, because they want older, more experienced advisors that have a book of business, and they may discount the potential growth opportunity that comes with hiring younger talent.
With a focus on finding the right technology solutions to meet a younger client demographic, coupled with adding a younger advisor base to your staff, firms may be better positioned to engage with Gen Xers, millennials and beyond as technology continues to transform the world and the way we do business.
Kevin Dombrowski serves as the director of client development for MainLine Private Wealth.