When it comes to staying in touch with younger investors, face-to-face or phone contact trumps social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. That, according to a survey from Merrill Lynch Private Banking & Investment Group, is just one finding that advisors need to keep in mind when looking to attract and keep clients in their 20s and 30s. Titled "Young High Net Worth Insights," the survey reached out to 153 investors between 18 and 35 with more than $1 million in investable assets.
The results from the February survey, like the preference for direct communication, show that younger generations are taking cues from their parents when it comes to how to approach investing. Almost 70% of the respondents believe their parents approach investing the right way versus 31% who say their parents do not; 65% of respondents invest like their parents versus 35% who do not; and 65% think their parents' investment approach still works today versus 35% who say it does not.
But younger investors also are lacking the financial knowledge that their parents have. Just 45% say they have more investment knowledge than their parents, while 33% believe they know less about investing than their parents and 22% think they are about equal. And while 56% describe themselves as moderately knowledgeable about investing, 25% think they have very little knowledge and just 19% say they are very knowledgeable.
When it comes to accessing information on financial investments, more than half of young investors turn to traditional media, including general television news (67%), business television news (58%), national newspapers (55%), and magazines (52%). By contrast, just 27% of respondents look to social media or blogs to stay well informed.
"Younger investors don't know it all, they're not looking to social media to get all the answers," says Michael Liersch, director of behavioral finance at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. "In fact, they're really looking to parents and advisors to offer advice and guidance."
These results reaffirm the actions taken by Merrill Lynch's Private Banking & Investment Group, which caters to the ultra-affluent set, to make sure that the business is properly embracing clients from younger generations, says Phil Sieg, head of ultra-high-net-worth client solutions and segments at Merrill Lynch. The efforts include financial boot camps, where young investors can get a financial education alongside their peers; a next generation advisory board that solicits feedback on the services that interest younger investors; and a set of leaders who can help advisors conduct family meetings to address issues including family dynamics, mission statements, and legacy planning. "It made a significant impact on our ability to understand and work with the next generation, but it also made the parents who are clients very appreciative," Sieg says.
Advisors looking to reach those younger clients still have plenty of opportunity, the survey results show. Of the respondents, 59% are now working with a wealth advisor, while 72% describe themselves as self-directed investors. At the same time, 49% of respondents would consider working with their parents' financial advisor versus 24% who are opposed to that kind of relationship.
But professionals looking to solicit these younger clients ought to bear their top concerns in mind. When it comes to working with an advisor, 39% want a professional who understands their needs at their life stage, 33% want someone who can communicate with their generation, 29% want values-based investing options, 26% want products and services that are not available elsewhere, 23% want resources to help fund their businesses, and 15% want help managing philanthropic endeavors.