Brainstorming ways to better reach millennial investors has basically become it’s own cottage industry among wealth advisors. Countless articles have been written, videos produced and apps launched to attempt to help advisors reach this troublesome demographic. Can nobody solve the millennial problem?
At first glance, Ivy Funds’ new educational portal, GenLink, looks like yet another in this long line of attempts to get through to “these darn kids.” With colorful info-graphics containing some fairly broad stats and generalizations about various generations and featured articles with titles like “Financial tips for Boomer parents and their Millennial kids,” it would be easy to lump this offering in with all of the others trying to capitalize on the interest that the conversation about millennial investors is driving. And, perhaps time will bear out that impulse.
Yet, according to SVP and Director of Marketing Lori Dorsey, GenLink’s goal is much broader:
“There’s a general lack of communications between the generations. This isn’t a millennial problem only, but a multi-generational one. Most advisors’ business looks just like they do. That’s not too good. People are afraid to talk to the next generation.”
And, though it’s temping to take each of GenLink’s offering individually, as sort of generational Cliff’s notes, which is how we’ve been conditioned to interact with this sort of content, that’s not really the idea here. The site is broken down into categories by generation (Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Edge) for ease of consumption, but the intent is for advisors to continually return and take in all of the regularly updated content, not just pop in to figure out what millennials like to eat for brunch.
The value is to be gained from comparing and contrasting the various statistical tidbits and stereotypes offered about each generation, including your own, to attempt to gain a greater understanding of not only what clients from differing generations want, but why your personal generational biases may be preventing you from figuring this information out on the fly. Dorsey notes “Advisors often apply their own generational biases even to stereotypes about other generations.”
As evidence, she offers the example of a millennial walking down the street looking at his smartphone with headphones on. He’s on a conference call with co-workers and his notes for the meeting are on his phone. He’s hard at work. To note that millennials embrace technology in all aspects of their lives is not exactly groundbreaking, but that’s only half the equation here; how does this man appear to a passerby?
For instance, a boomer, who didn’t grow up with such devices as part of the everyday workplace, even if he’s gradually come to adopt some of them, may simply write this man off as playing a videogame or listening to music; basically, the opposite of doing work because smartphones and headphones aren’t the tools with which work is accomplished. On the other hand, someone from Gen X, who’s more comfortable with having this technology in the workplace but more naturally inclined towards isolation and working alone, may apply his own biases, assuming that the man has headphones on to block out the rest of the world so that he can get his work done in peace. Both are wrong, but for completely different reasons, and it’s their own generational biases that are tripping them up, not just their lack of understanding of millennials.
Dorsey sums up GenLink’s mission statement by noting “It’s more than how to talk to a millennial. It’s learning how different generations think and how your own experiences color your reactions.”
Not every stereotype applies to every member of a given generation, but the idea of embracing broad strokes to start conversations about the way generations relate to one another is an intriguing one. It will be interesting to see if GenLink is successful in its mission of encouraging advisors to adopt this line of thinking or if they eventually fall back into the rest of the “Millennials walk like this” pack.