The Great Wealth Transfer

Amyr Rocha Lima, CFP®

1/10/2019 5 min read

A report released earlier this year by wealth manager Sanlam UK, entitled The Generation Game, indicated that more than 11 million 25–45-year-olds in the UK are expected to receive an inheritance from their parents or grandparents. 5.1 million of these individuals expect to inherit £50,000 or more in fixed assets or cash.

However, they might be banking on this windfall a little too heavily.

The Sanlam report noted that four in ten of those anticipating an inheritance have not yet discussed the specifics with the gifting party; a third admitted that they are delaying saving in anticipation of the panacea they believe their inheritance will offer. There’s a strong case here for professional financial guidance but many likely won’t seek it, or will hold off on doing so.

The 59% of millennials that have started saving for retirement appear reluctant to actually invest their savings, opting instead to hold cash or cash alternatives. This doesn’t bode particularly well for their nest egg; it indicates they’re shying away from the historically higher returns investments yield over the long-term, and effectively wasting the compounding advantage enjoyed by those who start retirement planning earlier in life.

According to a 2015 report from Unbiased.co.uk, the optimal age to receive financial advice regarding retirement is 25 – but most tend to delay this conversation for a further 10 years. The study indicated that those who consult with an financial planner early in their careers tend to save more, and harbor more realistic expectations of how long their retirement years will last. Furthermore, individuals that work with a financial professional can help to safeguard against some of the mistakes committed by DIY investors: from buying expensive products, to overpaying on their taxes or obsessing over short-term performance.

The need for professional financial guidance was further underscored by a study, released earlier this year by UCL and the University of Cambridge, that found adults in England and Northern Ireland perform worse on basic financial literacy tasks than their counterparts in most other developed countries – even when provided the opportunity to use a calculator.

As the UK prepares for this unprecedented intergenerational wealth transfer – estimated to be up to £1.2 trillion over the next 30 years – there is a compelling opportunity to serve younger clients and help them prepare for financial security. The question is, what can financial planners do today to bring their clients’ children and grandchildren into the fold?

They’ll tell you what they want (what they really, really want)

It’s no secret that the 18-35 cohort is, for the most part, more tech-oriented than generations past. The advent of smartphones has certainly facilitated a shift in how younger generations engage with financial services – 46 percent of UK millennials are keen to use their mobile phones to conduct all their financial planning – and this is certainly something you should consider as you evaluate next steps (if you don’t have a mobile-optimized website, you can expect eye rolls at best). Millennials crave convenience and demand always-on access, and that’s a reality you’ll need to plan for as you tailor your service proposition.

That said, this devotion to smartphones doesn’t mean that younger adults don’t value the human touch, or that they overlook the power of your expertise. In fact, a significant majority of respondents in a survey conducted by Legg Mason selected their preferred mode of advice as "online with the option of face-to-face.” It also suggested that online-only options were appealing to just 12 per cent of millennial respondents.

However, cost (or perceived cost) deters many young adults from seeking financial advice. When quizzed by Dabbl – an online share trading platform – about their attitudes toward investing, 62 percent of millennials claimed that their reticence to establish an investment portfolio was driven by a belief that investing is solely the domain of the wealthy.

The Dabbl survey also showed that almost three-quarters (72%) of those aged 25 to 34 had eschewed investing because they perceived it to be too complicated. This is where robo-advisors like Stash have really excelled, producing educational content that is easily digestible and comprehensible to the average investing novice, breaking down key financial concepts in a non-judgmental tone. Take a leaf out of their book and consider drafting informative blogs and email content to market your expertise – whether it’s a timely post explaining market volatility, or a quick blog decoding cryptocurrencies, it will elevate your profile and build trust in your ability to help clients navigate key areas of interest.

You might want to brush up on your ESG acumen, too - though millennials are seeking returns, they are equally concerned with ethical factors and how investments align with their own value systems. However, more than one in four investors (29%) say a lack of information regarding sustainable investments prevents them from investing more in these assets.

Millennials are highly active on social media, and you should ensure that you maintain a robust presence across relevant platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are often popular among financial planners). This is a place where you can engage with, and provide value to, your existing and prospective clients – posting informative content, showcasing the results you’ve achieved for similar customers (with their permission, of course). More than anything, just remember to be yourself and embrace a tone that’s professional yet authentic – it will otherwise likely come across as disingenuous, and millennials hate few things more!

Models and Pricing

When you consider this confluence of factors (the appetite for expert input, affinity for mobile-centric communication and desire for affordability), it’s clear that financial planners may need to get creative with their pricing to capture next-generation of clients. Statistics show that younger financial planners already have their fingers on the pulse of their peers’ needs and are increasingly serving them via a fee-for-service model.

Financial planners may wish to consider implementing a tiered/hybrid offering that empowers the client while providing them a “safety net” of sorts. Such a model may allow clients to interact with their portfolio via an online portal yet also speak with a human (e.g. via webchat, video conferencing, text or email), if they need a “gut check” regarding certain decisions. As they accumulate wealth, or approach a major life event, clients can opt to move up to the next tier or purchase an additional service for a set price.

Starting the Conversation

Start by talking to the donors, i.e. your clients – millennials are more likely to seek advice from their parents than prior generations. Ask your client if they’ve had a candid conversation with their heirs about the inheritance process, and whether they feel well-equipped to manage their finances responsibly. You might want to suggest that they invite their designated beneficiary (or beneficiaries) to your next scheduled meeting for an informal, no-obligation consultation where you break down some of the key considerations for both parties.

The Sanlam report suggests that your clients will appreciate your efforts to engage their progenies: two-thirds (61%) of over-55s surveyed don’t think younger generations are getting adequate financial advice and 40% are concerned about how they will utilize their inheritance. In fact, the majority (59%) want their children to see a financial planner – but just one in ten have suggested it.

Inheritance or no inheritance, it’s clear that stagnant wage growth, burgeoning student debt and rising inflation have created challenging economic circumstances for many young adults, who’ll likely need to save more than their parents did to enjoy a comfortable life in retirement. As a profession, we need to adopt a nimbler approach that enables us to serve these next-generation clients in a way that resonates, meets their needs and augments the likelihood of a bilaterally beneficial engagement.

Amyr Rocha Lima, CFP® is a partner at Holland Hahn & Wills LLP, a financial planning practice based in Kingston upon Thames. He specialises in working with successful professionals age 50+ helping them reduce taxes, invest smarter and retire on their terms.