While there are a few cross-generational commonalities among investors—everyone likes Apple, for example—millennials are establishing several unique preferences that set them apart from Baby Boomers, Generation X and the Greatest Generation. Coming of age during a time of rapid technological advancement, millennials have a unique set of experiences and priorities and navigate their stock choices in a different way than previous generations. Balance sheets and business periodicals might be of less importance—and what often matters most is if a company aligns with their values.
We recently took a deep dive into our proprietary data on stock positions in the self-directed accounts of digital investors and complied our key insights in a new report. We illustrate a few findings below about how millennials are constructing their own investment preferences.
Seeking stocks that fit in with their vision for a socially-responsible future
The new generation of investors has shown a tendency to seek out companies that hit the right note in terms of social, environmental and corporate governance. For example, between July and September 2018, Nike moved up 29 spots from 70th to 41st and the number of positions increased by nearly 20,000 as millennials reacted positively to the company’s ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick.
Furthermore, millennials are less inclined than other generations to steer investment dollars toward traditional blue-chip companies that don’t necessarily fit in with their vision:
Placing less emphasis on too-big-to-fail banks
Many millennials are keenly aware of the global financial crisis, a period that sowed a long-lasting distrust of traditional financial institutions. As a result, millennials place less emphasis on big banks in their portfolios compared to previous generations, who are more likely to count companies like Bank of America among their largest holdings.
- Bank of America: Baby Boomer 12th, Gen X 13th, Greatest Gen 8th, Millennial 22nd
Why does it matter?
Millennials are an enormous demographic, totaling more than 70 million Americans—that’s roughly one in every five Americans you meet. Besides the group’s sheer size, two key things are happening right now from an investment perspective:
- First, millennials are just entering their prime earning years.
- Second, they’re about to inherit an enormous amount of wealth. By 2030, millennials are expected to hold roughly $20 trillion in assets, representing a five-fold increase versus today.
Millennials are already making their mark on investing—but most of traditional Wall Street is just waking up to this reality.
When we undertook our broader research project, it was our goal to build a better understanding of the new generation of investors who are driving the future of digital wealth. Specifically, we believe the report can be a valuable tool for financial services companies aiming to win them as clients. Dramatic change happens when market powers shift, which is exactly what’s happening today in wealth management. As millennials become a more influential force, those who understand them and embrace the accompanying changes will undoubtedly be positioned to come out ahead.
Opportunities for financial services providers
For advisory practices and financial services firms interested in working with millennials, the findings illustrated here highlight several opportunities to take action, including:
- Moving forward with an understanding that millennials are often as motivated by personal ideologies (e.g., philanthropy, globalization, green energy) as they are by the pursuit of absolute returns—so traditional ways of talking about investing may only be half of the equation.
- Weaving investors’ motivations into discussions about financial and investment objectives, and, when appropriate, adapting investment strategies to include unique exposures.
- Offering education around concepts like diversification, asset allocation and portfolio construction to help younger investors understand and adopt best practices, given millennials’ high levels of exposure to individual stocks.
For more details about our proprietary data, the full findings and what they mean for financial services providers, check out our latest report.