Ask the Experts: How Can Financial Services Firms Connect with Millennials?

by on Mar 20, 2014

Corporate Insight is in the process of conducting interviews MillennialShiftFlyerLogowith numerous subject matter experts and executives for a cross-industry study titled The Millennial Shift: Financial Services and the Digital Generation, set for release in April. Our discussions have covered a wide range of topics including the industry’s views on Millennials, strategies for acquiring young clients and the importance of mobile/social/technological innovation to this audience.

What follows are excerpts from three of these interviews. These comments touch on several key themes emerging from our research, specifically:

  • Importance of being transparent and educational when interacting with Millennials
  • Value Millennials place on mobile capabilities
  • Competitive advantage social media can give to smaller institutions

Three Questions for Three Experts

Dan Schawbel, Founder and CEO of Millennial Branding

Corporate Insight: Survey data suggests that Millennials are skeptical of all kinds of institutions. Financial service firms are no exception. What can firms do to overcome this kind of skepticism or negative sentiment?

Dan Schawbel: One of the easiest ways to overcome these issues is with transparency. Millennials want an honest and open company that isn’t just putting out these advertisements that are not authentic or candid. Winning them over with transparency might be the most interesting option. If you’re an advisor, you should tell clients exactly how your firm operates, how the commissions are structured and you should be straightforward with what’s best for the client right now and why.

The biggest opportunity in the financial world for advisors is easily education. Giving out free materials and helping people understand not just what the options are, but why one option is better than another. It really comes down to transparency and education. It’s almost an expectation now. Millennials expect a lot more from a financial firm because of how easily they can find information on their own online. The only way to compete with these resources is to provide custom and relevant information that weighs the pros and cons of any financial decision.

Dan Schawbel is the founder and CEO of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is The New York Times andThe Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success and the international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future. He is also a regular contributor to TIME andFORBES. You can follow him on Twitter @DanSchawbel.

Michael Ray, Managing Director of Client Experience at Charles Schwab

Corporate Insight: Millennials are sometimes described as “Digital Natives.” They grew up with the Internet, social media and mobile phones and tend to be early adopters when it comes to new technologies. How do you think this is impacting the way the brokerage industry services these individuals?

Michael Ray: We’ve seen strong adoption of [Charles Schwab’s] mobile apps by our younger clients. They want to interact with us on the go, on the device of their choice. The expectation is, “Whatever I can do on your website, I should be able to do on your mobile app, as well.” In some cases, for practical purposes, clients may not want to do everything on their phone, such as reading a lengthy research report, but the expectation is any capability presented on the website should also be offered on the mobile app.

The ways we communicate with clients are also changing. We’re seeing younger clients lead the way on using our mobile app, and their feeling is, “Don’t call me about an issue. Send me a text, or push me a notification through the mobile app.”

Michael Ray is Managing Director of Client Experience at Charles Schwab. He has been with the firm for 14 years and his responsibilities include developing the strategy, approach and tactics for tackling the young investor market.

Brandon Moss, CFP, Vice President of Wealth Advisor Management at United Capital

Corporate Insight: In terms of marketing to Millennials, has social media leveled the playing field for smaller financial institutions?

Brandon Moss: I think [social media] levels the playing field a little bit. It allows smaller companies like United Capital to use our creative, startup-mentalities a little more. The one thing that it does do that has been a real benefit to us is that there is a real voice, with real people behind it. Larger firms really struggle with that. You can definitely get a sense of the who and the why behind some companies, which is really important to younger folks. They want to be associated with brands that mean something. It’s the TOMS Shoes and Zappos mentality – they want to be part of a bigger social impact as opposed to just self-interested capitalism.

Brandon Moss, CFP, is Vice President of Wealth Advisor Management at United Capital, a national partnership of private wealth counseling offices, and works in the Dallas office. Brandon has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal andFinancial Planning for his insight on financial matters. Follow him on Twitter @brandonlmoss.