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How Advisors Can Appeal to Millennials

Financial advisers must adapt their business if they want to appeal to the younger generations, says Kind Wealth's David O'Leary.

Holly Black: Welcome to the Morningstar Digital Investment Conference. I'm Holly Black. With me is David O'Leary. He is founder of Kind Wealth.


David O'Leary: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Black: It's a pleasure. Do you want to tell us what Kind Wealth does?

O'Leary: Sure. So, Kind Wealth is an advice-only financial-planning business. We work with younger generations. I think about it as generations X and Y, so maybe 30- to 50-year-olds is our client sweet spot.

Black: We often think about financial advisors being something we come to a little bit later in life when we've accumulated more wealth or perhaps we're drawing down our pension. What is the challenge in serving that younger client?

O'Leary: Certainly, the average person out there thinks that, “Oh, a financial advisor is something that someone I go to once I have a lot of money.” And that has largely been true because financial advisors charge on a percentage of AUM basis, and so therefore, we all want to work with the wealthiest clients because they make us the most money. And we've sort of said to younger people, “Hey, you know, you don't have much to worry about, things are fairly straightforward, because you don't have a lot of assets to worry about.” But the truth is, their lives are fairly complicated. I mean, disproportionately, if it's--maybe I'll say it this way: If financial planning is tied to changing events in your life that have implications on your money, disproportionately, those events occur when you're younger. So, you are getting married, you're having kids, you're starting a new job, you're changing careers, you're starting a business, you're getting separated or divorced. Those all have massive implications on your money that happen to you in your 30s and 40s. And there are lots of issues as you get older and you acquire more wealth that come into play and you need help with, but it is definitely not true that when you're younger you don't need any help.

Black: I think we do think of financial advice historically as that in-person face-to-face relationship. Technology is changing that anyway. But has the pandemic this year sort of forced clients that weren't perhaps keen to get on board with tech?

O'Leary: I think so. I mean, Kind Wealth was always set up as a virtual delivery. So, we don't have physical offices, and there's no option for our clients to come in and see us in person. But we're serving a younger demographic, and so that kind of made sense. I think what the pandemic has done is taken all of the sort of laggards to adopt virtual--not all of them, but a big percentage of them who hadn't been OK with virtual chats, to start adopting it.

The other thing I might say, which is an interesting dynamic, is that you now become indifferent between having a big one-and-a-half-hour meeting with a client or two 45-minute meetings because you're not losing time in transit. And so, what that means is you can have more-focused meetings with a narrower scope to only talk about one or two issues, and then have another meeting down the road, not too long after, where you talk about other issues so that you don't try to cram too many issues into one meeting where the client gets overwhelmed.

Black: And something I really want to know is, Have you met any friction in having that flat-fee model? Historically, people have paid a commission and sort of thought of the advice as free, even though it wasn't, and that's been quite a hard transition for the industry. What have you found?

O'Leary: Definitely with the younger demographic, it's not hard because they are a lot more aware and alert to the fact … they are a lot more skeptical. So, there's often a saying, “If you're not being charged for the product, you are the product” if something's free. So, they're aware of this idea that if you're getting something for free, you may want to be questioning, “Wait a minute. How is it that I'm getting this for free, and how are they monetizing me?” Right? And so, that is a far more prevalent thing for younger demographic. So, it's very easy for us. When we talk about it and we explain the model that, “Hey, we don't sell any products so that what you pay us for advice, the amount that comes in your bank account, what that buys you is trust that there's no conflict of interest, where what we tell you is because we think it's the best thing for you and not because we're going to get rewarded or compensated in the back end for selling you a product,” and they really value that. So, I think depending on your client demographic, that may be an easier or harder sell.

Black: David, thank you so much for your time. For Morningstar, I'm Holly Black.