Millennials. Much has been said about us. We were dubbed the ‘entitled’ generation, the ‘lazy’ generation, and the ‘instant-gratification’ generation. While we partially blame the systems in place that made us the way we are (did you think all 1 million of us were born like this?), we admit that technology is a very big part of our lives. It has shaped the way we invest as well.
Here are the 2 ways Millennials invest, and what you can learn from them.
Millennials Conduct Extensive Research Before Investing
Believe it or not, the Millennial generation has a huge, often-overlooked advantage: because we grew up within the rapid growth of technology which bombard us with all sorts of information, we have instinctively learnt how to search for information effectively amid all the online ‘noise’ (not in the literal ‘noise’ sense, but more in the ‘overwhelming web clutter’ sense).
This advantage means that many Millennials are able to conduct online research for any topic, including how to invest. This might appear like an insignificant nugget of information, but consider this: only a few decades ago, only the well-to-do can get access to investment advice via their money managers.
Now, not only we learn about the different investment vehicles we can use to invest our money, we are also exposed to various best and worst practices in the investment world. We read and provide customer review, via websites and social media. We assess user experience.
Using this information, we save so much time from trying out the many investment options out there that simply don’t fit into our risk appetites or investment personality. As a result, our investment style is a lot more honed right from the start.
Millennials also tend to favour investments that promote social and environmental causes. See these 6 stocks Millennials love – many of them have well-documented online resources on how profits were used towards good causes.
How You Can Learn: Do a lot of research on investment online, but always with a pinch of salt. Be aware of fake reviews, or over-the-top praises for any one investment vehicle – a good product will never rely on those to get customers.
Read a lot of customer feedback, especially on social media and online forums. Compare rates as having brand loyalty does not pay in the financial world. Update yourself on common (and uncommon) investment scams.
And yes, it is possible to be profit-oriented AND contribute to good causes.
Millennials Demand More Transparency and Digital Security
Many financial services have moved online – that itself is not new. What is relatively new, however, is the shift towards public demand for more transparency and digital security.
Many Millennials see Edward Snowden as a hero figure – he exposed how much exactly were deliberately hidden from us. Although this mainly applied to U.S.context, it has a wide-reaching implication into the investment world, especially to Millennials who relate to him (he is a Millennial, too).
Now, Millennials around the world are a lot more conscious of information and how it is kept digitally. We demand transparency and enhanced digital security – in turn, we witnessed how quickly financial institutions reacted, lest they lose our business.
The effects of this trend cannot be undervalued. A lot of fees that used to be hidden in the fine print is now a lot more transparent – or the customers will simply seek other services. Now, we expect to be informed of all rates up-front – no more ‘hidden rates’ as was common in the past. Financial advisors also advertise their management fees, making it easy for us to make comparisons (ask Gen Xers – this is almost unheard of in the past).
As for digital security – financial institutions that do not invest in this sector can pretty much kiss their customers good bye. Millennials are knowledgeable enough to know that an insecure savings account is like leaving cash in an unlocked house – we have heard too many cases of hacked accounts to take this lightly.
Therefore, it is safe to say that the more enhanced the digital security, the more Millennials are attracted to the financial products and services.
How You Can Learn: Simply avoid companies that do not offer enough transparency – if you are expected to hand over thousands of dollars for someone to manage your money, you deserve to know what it is used for and how much you will be charged for it.
Also, companies that do not invest in digital security are bad choices. Full stop. Thankfully, this is more of a rarity nowadays – but one shouldn’t be lax and take it for granted.
The 2 ways Millennials invest as explored above can explain the investment trends we are currently experiencing. For one, this study confirmed that ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds) has already surpassed mutual funds as the most popular investment vehicle.
Price transparency allowed us to know that ETFs typically has lower management fees, which attracts Millennials (and the rest of the population, to be honest).
For another, familiarity and preference for online, non-human channels gave rise to robo-advisors, who are able to guide an investor 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Right now, they are in infancy stages in Singapore, but we foresee the service being popular for Millennials in the future.
These two are very new trends, and unlikely to be the last. We are excited to see other ways the Millennials generation can influence the investment world.
She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen).
Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector and is currently a Director in Tera Capital. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).