Financial Service Advisors are about to be disrupted in a big way, and it’s not just about the robots.

If you’re like many Millennials, you look for authentic experiences – you like your coffee fresh-roasted, your vacations off the beaten track, and your beer craft-brewed (I know I do!) And, if you’re like the vast majority of Millennials, you also look for connected experiences. You use your smart phone and computer to research shared data, then automate and build efficiencies into many of the tasks that took your parents’ generation hours, days, sometimes weeks to complete.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, that Millennials are looking for a new way of working with Financial Advisors and that the industry is scrambling to meet their needs.

On one hand, the new robo-advisors are attractive in their efficiencies, agnosticism, and ability to instantaneously correct for market changes without having to set up a meeting two weeks from now. On the other hand, Millennials place critical importance on personalization and are resistant to the robo-advisors’ fast-food approach, where you can only chose from a limited menu of pre-packaged financial and risk profiles.

Financial Advisors, by definition, provide a much more personal and flexible service. The problem is that too many advisors are “frozen” in the pre-cloud computing way of doing business and don’t feel relatable to Millennials seeking advisors who get them, their lifestyle, their values, and their life goals, and who are taking advantage of new algorithms, online tools, and apps.

This creates a challenge for Financial Services Advisors to find a way to integrate the ease, speed, and efficiency of the new tools that Millennials demand with the authentic, bespoke, and perceptive service that Millennials crave.

Financial Service Advisors- millennials and money

Looking for Connection

While the limitations of automated algorithms are clear – no robot is going to teach you financial literacy or suggest that, instead of splurging on that trip to Turks and Caicos, you’d be better served going for a lobster roll on Cape Cod and paying down some student debt. Human advisors can be just as limited if they don’t know who you are and what’s important to you.

A sobering survey conducted by Salesforce this past April found that only 53% the Millennials surveyed said they believed that their financial advisor was aware of their key life goals, only 49% felt that their financial advisor had their best interests as top priority when giving financial advice, and only 33% believed that their financial advisor would even recognize them if they walked past them on the street. That figure is particularly shocking with the ease and availability of finding customers’ profiles online.

At the same time, while 50% of the Millennials surveyed are currently managing their finances on their own, an overwhelming 81% would prefer to be doing it with a Financial Advisor.

So why doesn’t that 50% of do-it-yourselfers already have a financial advisor? Clearly there is a disconnect in the way that Financial Advisors are communicating with and providing services to Millennials. That disconnect needs to be re-wired so that Millennials are getting both the up-to-date and personalized attention they need to reach their financial goals.

It is likely that no other generation has been subject to as much scrutiny, and as many generalizations, as Millennials. We’ve been described as simultaneously self-absorbed and altruistic, disruptive and risk-adverse, tech-obsessed and slow-food naturalists, among dozens of other contradictory clichés.

One thing that does absolutely characterize Millennials, however, is that, because we’ve grown up with the Internet, we are aware of – and expect – more choices. That means that neither robo algorithms that only offer a limited menu of broad-stroke, “pre-cooked” profile choices, or traditional advisors, who often profile clients simply based on age rather than individual life goals, are going to be that appealing to Millennials who want personalization, collaboration, and the ability to provide their own input as well.

With the 30 trillion dollars that are about to move from Baby Boomers to the Millennials in the next few decades, according to a 2010 MetLife study, it’s critical that Millennials get experienced and appropriate advice so they don’t miss out on doing everything they can to potentially maximize the growth of their own resources.

We Demand Fresh not Frozen Financial Service Advisors

To be successful attracting and keeping Millennial clients while giving them the made-to-order financial plans that address their goals, situation, and appetites – Financial Advisors will need to not only listen carefully, collaborate, and communicate transparently, they’ll need to be open to, and selectively adopt and offer, cutting edge new financial tools and services that provide extra value.

In fact, in the Salesforce survey, 45% of Millennials responded that their reason for leaving a financial advisor this year was outdated financial modeling and an overwhelming 89% said that new tools were important when it comes to selecting a financial advisor.

More traditional Financial Service Advisors, who are used to only seeing their Baby Boomer clients quarterly and sharing information by mail, will also need to adapt to Millennials’ more immediate communication style (13% said they like to schedule meetings by text or IM) and appetite for more frequent communication.

Most importantly, traditional Financial Advisors need to see clients as individuals, and not just numbers on a spread sheet, and start paying as much attention to their Millennial clients’ growing wealth as they do to their older clients’ larger accounts.

What Doesn’t Your Financial Advisor Know About You… and You About Them?

While clearly smart advisors who want to work with Millennials need to be listening carefully to their Millennials clients’ unique needs and goals, Millennials need to step up to the plate and take control of their financial future as well!

There is a treasure trove of information about financial services available to Millennials: it’s easy to find individual Financial Advisors’ menu of services, fee structure (93% of Millennials surveyed by Salesforce said that fee structure was important when choosing a financial advisor,) and investment philosophies. More and more Financial Advisors and firms are on Social Media, as well, which can help you get sense of who they are, whether they’re on your wavelength, and whether they’re the kind of trusted advisor you need to make smart choices.

Taking That First Bite

Whether you’re just getting started or considering a shift in how – and with whom – you start building your financial future, the way to get going is to learn all you can then “just do it”.

The best way for Millennials to choose smart financial tools and advisors is to learn how to ask the right questions! Is that automated site flexible enough to provide you with the kind of feedback and personalization you need to work toward your individual goals, or is it like a sophisticated assembly line – high-quality but still fast food – that turns out professionally packaged products from a limited menu? Is that Financial Advisor someone who gets to know you and understands where you want to go, who can adapt best practices and new tools to help you get there, or are they someone who belongs in the frozen food section, locked in an outdated, less technical way of doing business and communicating?

Most Millennials seem to want – and expect – a hybrid: great tools and algorithms that can save time and draw on huge amounts of data and insights, in the hands of an advisor who knows how to add your context to the data to create an individualized and evolving plan that works for you. The same way great ingredients are transformed in the hands of a great chef, the best data and the best practices should look very different for you than for someone at a different point in their financial journey with very different circumstances.

It will be interesting to watch how the Financial Service industry evolves, specifically whether Financial Service Advisors and companies can step up and truly provide what Millennials are asking for: cutting edge data and automation, with a smart and supportive human touch.


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Brad Sherman


Rockville, MD

Brad Sherman is an independent financial planner and investment advisor, specializing in guiding Millennials on the path to financial independence and achieving their financial goals. Co-host of the Launch Financial podcast, Brad is a frequent speaker and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, Bankrate, and GoBankingRates, Brad graduated with a degree in International Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (go Badgers!) and has a Masters in Finance from American University’s Kogod School of Business. He enjoys playing football - both fantasy and real - and baseball, but his real talent is playing Whiffle Ball with his young son.

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