I knew I was in trouble when I approached the security line for my flight to Washington, D.C., for the start of the general membership meeting of the Investment Company Institute.
There, in clusters of pink, purple, blue and other bright T-shirts were the people that would surround me on my flight from Fort Lauderdale. Eight-nine students from Equestrian Trails and Southpointe elementary schools in Palm Beach County, Florida.
A business traveler’s dream. Or nightmare.
This discovery came at 6:30 a.m. Not much you could do. (Maybe reservation systems can start displaying group affiliations on the maps they show you, when pick your seat online. Or print a short warning: “This plane reserved for student field trip” or such.)
These kids, of course, were fully charged up, even before dawn. There would be no catchup sleep, this morning.
They were snapping pictures, left and right, in the waiting area. They were boisterously checking out the channel choices on JetBlue’s seatback TVs, as soon as they could. They were also taking joy in repeatedly pulling down the foldout seatback tables (My back can personally attest to that).
Then, heaven forbid, JetBlue’s TV system went down. This would take five minutes to reset.
How would the kids react? No problem. To a son and daughter, each and everyone, as far as the eye could see, pulled out a smartphone. And immediately started playing their pre-loaded apps and music.
At that moment, even JetBlue, the innovator in in-flight entertainment with those seatback TVs, turned out to be anachronistic. There was no wifi. No way to connect to the Internet. No longer acceptable.
Why does this matter? These kids are going to take over this industry, fairly soon. They already get, instinctively, that they will get to define what happens, rather than be defined by it.
As Thomas L. Friedman put it in “It’s a 401(k) World” in The New York Times, “Your specific contributions will define your specific benefits much more. Just showing up will not cut it.’’
He was speaking about what’s happening to government benefits, company benefits and even union benefits.
But the point applies to work itself and industries of all stripes, including this one.
By the time these kids are your age or mine, they will be creating baskets of stocks, bonds, diamonds, real estate and any kind of asset imaginable, on the fly. They’ll be doing it on apps that are hidden in their glasses and spoken to. Or in a chip embedded – author William Gibson nailed this first – in the back of their neck or other inobtrusive location. They will be their own fund sponsors and portfolio managers, seeking out advice, perhaps. But defining their own plans and thinking nothing of it.
Get ready. You and I are definitely in for trouble.
Yet, I hope to be around to see this all unfold.
This industry will rock.