Every generation of affluent consumers makes their mark in reshaping the wealth management industry. The newest generation of up-and-coming investors, the affluent millennials, will cause a paradigm shift in the development and delivery of services and products to meet their unique needs. Is your firm prepared?

This group of younger high-net-worth individuals will only get richer, according to U.S. wealth management data from our recent Global Wealth Monitor report. Focusing attention on their needs and desires today will help advisors gain access to and retain these highly valued investors.

Here are five ways wealthy millennials will change wealth management.

1. INSTANT ACCESS

Instant access to everything, from data and products to services and people, has been woven into the DNA of affluent millennials from an early age. This generation will expect -- and even take for granted -- instant access to wealth management products, services and professionals. Millennials embrace self-education and expect their financial service providers to offer the tutorials, videos and other interactive tools to enable their decision making.

New disruptive digital technologies and providers have emerged to empower millennials' need for instant access to information and self-education including:

  • Robo advisors that provide real-time customized advice, including asset allocation, goal setting and portfolio monitoring; 
  • Investment communities, offering an online platform for investment discussion and idea sharing and; 
  • Portfolio review providers, offering financial management portals that track advisor and portfolio performance.

Takeaway: Strategies to build and support digital platforms for current and prospective affluent millennial clients must be put in place immediately. And it's worth noting, transparency in all interactions will be demanded by this group of investors. Hidden agendas or “black box” products will not be tolerated.

2. DIGITAL PLATFORMS

Affluent millennials are highly active and engaged investors, with a relatively high tolerance for market risk, which they have a strong desire to manage through financial planning. The Phoenix study shows that two-thirds of affluent millennials place importance on having a written financial plan, versus less than 40% of affluent baby boomers.

Having control over the wealth management process is very important to affluent millennials and is demonstrated by their orientation towards advice and advisors. Phoenix data shows that 70% prefer a "selective" approach, meaning that they opt to use advisors for specific life or financial events, but prefer to self-direct the rest of their wealth management needs.

Takeaway: Wealth managers need to develop a more flexible wealth management services platform to accommodate self-management through online tools.

Technology and self-education enable millennial investors to participate in the wealth management process to a greater degree than most of their older counterparts. Undertaking financial planning early on with these clients will demonstrate a long-term commitment to the client-advisor relationship.

3. DIVERSITY

Overall, millennials are the most ethnically diverse generation in history, but this diversity is more than a demographic factor, it's also a mindset. It extends to their views on society, politics and institutions.
Affluent millennials use a much wider variety of advisors than their older counterparts, including bank advisors, online advice, accountants, mutual fund representatives and friends or relatives. Conversely, they are less likely than the older generations to use traditional advice channels. Phoenix research shows that 28% of affluent millennials use a traditional brokerage as their primary advisor, versus 37% of baby boomers.

Takeaway: Millennials' eclectic use of financial providers and advisors offers opportunities for banks and other institutions to develop and promote their wealth management infrastructure to retain these investors before they migrate to full service or independent advice channels.

4. GLOBAL INVESTING

Connected to the world through technology, millennials are the first generation to be truly global. This mindset is reflected by their willingness to seek employment in foreign countries, balance their portfolios with greater exposure to foreign or global securities or to hold money in offshore accounts.

Takeaway: Wealth management firms must demonstrate a global perspective in their product or service offerings. This perspective must also be built into the asset allocation and diversification communications and portfolio planning with these clients.

5. SOCIAL, SUSTAINABLE & LOCAL

Empowered by the ease of access to people and services through technology, the “sharing economy” is based on “access over ownership” and asset utilization. At a basic level, the sharing or “rental” economy connects people who want something with people who own it. Companies like Airbnb (connecting people seeking rooms with people having extra capacity) or Uber (cars on demand) have particular appeal to affluent millennials, offering services that are economically efficient, more environmentally sustainable and more social.

Takeaway: It is important to develop and promote services such as online investment communities, which promote sharing and discussion of investing ideas; charitable giving strategies for younger clients; online crowd funding to promote entrepreneurial initiatives; or local sustainability projects like food co-ops. These types of services will be appealing to the affluent millennial interested in participating in the sharing economy.

Unlike their baby boomer parents, who largely came to have the same needs and expectations for their advisors as their parents, millennials will demand a different mindset and approach from the industry -- and advisors better pay attention.

David Thompson is the managing director of the Phoenix Marketing International Affluent Practice.

Read more: