Why Wealth Managers Still Have a Shot at Winning Millennials

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The great irony for the financial services industry in trying to reach millennials is, despite young adults' interest in building and passing along wealth, they are reluctant to engage with wealth managers.

But before financial advisory firms throw in the towel, they should consider the tools they have to compete with disruptors in attracting younger investors. Chief among those tools is all-powerful data.

A report by Accenture found that millennials are the most determined of all generations to build and pass along wealth. But despite their stated interest, young adults are not utilizing financial advisory services in their traditional forms. So firms are losing ground with lucrative young consumers.

This raises the question: What can wealth management firms do to appeal to and engage with millennials? The answers are rooted in technology and data.

Over the past few years, a number of online wealth management companies have emerged, built with the millennial mindset at their cores. Their services are digital and they give consumers unprecedented access to their personal financial data.They emphasize transparency and actively seek to inform and engage their users with educational content.

But any firm armed with the right approach can still take advantage of technology and the explosion of data to create powerful, personalized digital tools that offer holistic wealth advice just as the robo-advisors have. Here are three steps that can help firms create a positive, digital wealth management experience that will appeal to the modern, young investor.

Provide good data on the back end
Sound financial advice requires data because advisors have to go deeper than "how to retire by 45." And no two investors are the same. Everyone has different income levels, life circumstances, risk tolerance and goals. Fortunately, there is an absolute goldmine of financial data out there. A majority of U.S. adults now bank online, and there are digital records out there for everything from paychecks to the amount spent on meals at restaurants per month. Data not only enables a higher degree of personalization but also cultivates trust by increasing transparency and understanding of personal finances. As mentioned above, millennials tend to distrust financial advisors. So they are more likely to choose technology-enabled, data-driven services that they believe are more transparent and objective. Making data the backbone of everything a company does helps overcome the trust gap between millennials and financial advisors.

Be friendly on the front end
Younger investors were raised in the digital era. So it is no surprise that they are active and savvy users of technology, and they have little tolerance for services that are not designed with the user experience in mind. Services that are not easy to use, efficient, self-guided and hiccup-free will quickly be abandoned.

For wealth management firms, a lot rides on their ability to deliver a personable and user-friendly, front-end experience. The user experience has to be simple, intuitive and elegant. Wealth management firms need to offer transparent access to personalized and predictive data. In addition, decision-making systems have to be seamlessly integrated, and users need instant access to real financial advisors when they need them. This not only creates a better experience for users, but also helps advisors achieve a unique, context-based understanding of their customer.

Put Consumers First
The best financial management tools also provide regular touch points for consumers to engage across multiple platforms. Investors should be able to access their portfolio as easily from their smartphone as from their computer.

Putting the consumer first also requires restraint. Don't be pushy about selling new products because millennials will be turned off if they feel like they're being forced into something. Trying too hard to sell them something will undermine that trust your company has worked so hard to cultivate. If they want a higher level of service or additional tools, they'll ask for it.

John Bird is a vice president in product marketing and alliances at Yodlee. He can be reached @Yodlee.

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