Keys to Preparing for ‘The Great Wealth Transfer’
By Sam Deleo
Tucker Advisors Senior Content Specialist/Editor
Nearly $70 trillion. According to research firm Cerulli Associates, that’s how much wealth aging generations like baby boomers will transfer to their children and grandchildren in the next two decades or so. This figure represents the largest generational inheritance of wealth ever, which some are now tagging “The Great Wealth Transfer.”
The effects of this massive transfer will introduce new challenges for financial advisors. Gen Xers, millennials and members of Generation Z think differently about money than their parents and grandparents. The methods advisors use in serving this new client base will need to adapt, also.
In addressing this subject, we won’t be so bold as to offer specific recommendations in this space because the challenges are still so new to both this potential client base and advisors alike. We simply want to introduce some methods that advisors may want to consider now and moving forward.
There are many generalizations we can make about younger generations that are as unfair to them as the stereotypes leveled at previous generations. Instead, let’s talk about prevailing tendencies that may or may not exist in the younger folks you might meet as prospects:
They might not be rebellious, but they likely won’t be traditional or “establishment,” either; They might not be impressed by your marketing efforts simply because they’ve already seen everything repeatedly, having been saturated with advertising, marketing and digital culture their whole lives; They might also be less impressed by your credentials and expertise, unless you can show them how your industry experience can directly impact their lives.
Additionally, more young adults live at home than at any point since 1969, according to Generational Insights, a leading research firm on generational demographics. This is not always by their design or preference, as they have weathered unique financial circumstances such as The Great Recession, housing slumps and aggressive valuations, as well as skyrocketing college debt.
Generational Insights summarizes younger generations’ view on experts like financial advisors as follows: Experts are teachers; Experts acknowledge the uniqueness of an individual’s situation; Experts guide, rather than seek to control; Expert’s resources should be available repeatedly, even long after a transaction has closed.
Financial advisors seeking to connect with younger generations would do well to emphasize both their personal characteristics as well as their professional traits. Younger people engage with personal details of people every day in social media settings. While it might be more appropriate to reveal such details in Instagram or Facebook than on LinkedIn, advisors should feel free to express their preferences when it comes to movies, music, sports and other media. What are your hobbies, collections, travel interests and outdoor pursuits? What interests inspire passion in you? You may not feel as comfortable about it yet, but younger people have seen information like this about others as long as they can likely remember.
“It appears to us,” said Marston, “that many experts in the financial industry who are age 50 and older have some expectation the methods and manners that worked with the parents and grandparents are going to work with the children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case.”
For starters, the parents and grandparents either missed the brunt of the Great Depression or had already secured careers and wealth by the time of the Great Recession. They experienced their share of market pressures, but they were different in scope than what young people face today.
“Keep in mind that for some members of this younger audience, like millennials, for instance,” said Marston, “there is still a stain on the financial industry because of the Great Recession. This event occurred right when many of them were trying to enter the work force and begin their careers. And, this new audience views a financial advisor as even more of a burden when they consider what ‘robo’ offers, where you don’t have to interact with a human to set up accounts or undergo the small talk that comes with human interactions. So, the question they ask themselves is, ‘Why should I work with a human?’ That’s why it’s so important financial advisors communicate with them on their level in the ways they prefer.”
What works for older clients, such as telling your story or presenting credentials and awards, may not elicit the same responses from younger prospects.
“Your ‘story’ remains effective with older clients,” said Marston, “but get out of your story and into the future with younger clients. They don’t want to know about you as much as they want to know how you can help them. So, it’s not just the future of the client, it’s, ‘Here is what I see happening if we work together.’ It’s a future focused with the advisor involved. Draw the picture of what the future will look like and then attach an emotion to this future: ‘This is going to be fun’; ‘I think you’re going to like what you’ll learn.’; ‘I think this will be an exciting experience for you,’ and so on.”
One of the biggest challenges facing financial advisors, Marston believes, involves the sales process. It should be a careful and deliberative process with clients of any age, but the way that process functions moving forward may change dramatically with younger prospects.
“Selling has always involved both emotion and logic. Now it’s generational, too,” said Marston. “When it comes to offering a sales pitch, my advice is to first create a picture of the future, with you the advisor as a part of that future. Second, sell in herds, that is to say, ‘Hey, I’d love the opportunity to tell you about what I do. Why don’t you grab a few friends, I’ll buy you all a round of beers and I’ll tell you about how my business works?’ It’s hard to isolate people alone in these younger generations, they’re often more comfortable in groups and with friends. Third, when given the opportunity, say something to the effect of, ‘Before I tell you what we do, why don’t you tell me everything I need to know about you?’ And in that moment of conversation, hopefully, that person feels heard, feels like you are invested in who he or she is. This then allows you to move on to telling them what you can do for them.”
Using data that Generational Insights has compiled, we gathered a list of methods that may still be too new to call “best practices.” That said, here are:
5 Keys to Working with Younger Clients
1. Online Reputation
- The first step younger clients will take to learn about you is to search your name, business name and website online. Make sure you have put in the work for them to find positive results across multiple search engines and/or review sites.
- Maintain a presence on LinkedIn that is updated, followed by Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, in that order.
- If there are communications at this stage, present yourself as an information source, not a salesperson.
- If a “meeting” develops in this initial stage, keep it as informal as possible and don’t insist that it can only be in person.
2. Key Considerations
- Gen Xers have weathered The Great Recession, a housing slump and massive college debt, so they remain highly suspicious of the financial market.
- They trust recommendations from their peers more than “experts.”
- Don’t take their casual attitude as a personal affront.
- Millennials use online and convenience financial services more than any other group.
- They are more likely to invest in their causes and beliefs than any other generation.
- They are comfortable in groups, value their peers and may post online about their interactions with you.
- In general, be transparent and authentic. Don’t pretend to share their lifestyle and interests if you really don’t. You can be yourself and still be curious about them at the same time.
- For men, a collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a sport coat by your side is fine; Women can also dress business casual—comfortable slacks and a blouse.
- Ask them what you need to know about them and really listen.
- Get to your points without wasting time.
- Ask more questions.
• Avoid aggressive pitches and don’t pressure people for decisions.
• Instead, offer information, ask questions and wait for feedback.
• When explaining your suggestions, offer options.
• Show them where they can research your suggestions on the internet, but provide advice you feel they cannot find online, also.
• Consider offering free services for a limited time, or show how you are customizing your services to fit their needs.
- Be responsive to emails, texts and voicemails within 24 hours.
- Your ongoing service should match their initial experience with you.
- Be succinct in your messaging and ask them which they prefer: Email, texts, social media, etc.
- Don’t sign them up for newsletters or email opt-ins without their permission.
- Only reach out when necessary.
Thus far, we have largely discussed working with younger generations of clients as a future event. It’s not. The Great Wealth Transfer has begun and is in full progress.
You may have helped the parents and grandparents of today’s children. You might believe that, because of that service, new business is owed to you. But it’s not. The sooner you realize that, the better it will be for your bottom line.
Instead, embrace this new challenge of getting to know younger generations. What could possibly be more exciting than meeting the future in the form of bright, engaging young adults? It will be as much a new experience for you as it is for them. There is much to teach, and even more to learn.
For more information about generational demographics, please email Cam@CamMarston.com.
1. Cerulli Associates
2. Generational Insights
– For Financial Professional Use Only. Insurance-only agents are not licensed to offer investment advice.