My son, born in 1993, is definitely a millennial. (I say this despite the fact that there seems to be a good deal of confusion, or at least blurriness, about when you had to be born to qualify as a millennial – pretty much whatever start and finish dates you go for, 1993 is roughly in the middle.) I, on the other hand, born in 195-ahem, am definitely a baby boomer. That puts Ollie and me at least one, and arguably two, generations apart (yes, OK, I was a bit of a veteran dad).
According to the experts in such things, this should mean that we have very different attitudes and behaviours as far as our chosen routes to markets, information, financial services and pretty much everything else are concerned. Ollie is a so-called digital native who is supposed to do everything he possibly can online (mostly on his phone), uses social media at every opportunity, is loving Pokemon Go, twin-screens or even triple-screens (phone, laptop, TV) when spending any part of his evening slumped on the sofa and generally avoids real-world contact with real people as much he possibly can.
I, on the other hand, am what is known as an old fart. This should mean that I can barely switch a computer on, think that phones are for making phone calls, am signed up to LinkedIn for business networking but that’s it as far as social is concerned and have no idea what Charmander or Jigglypuff evolve into.
Needless to say, the point of this blog is to say that these stereotypes are massively wrong – mine rather wronger than Ollie’s – and what’s supposed to be a behavioural chasm that separates us is in fact a very narrow fault-line that makes very little difference to how we both want to be treated.
Without wading too laboriously through the various points that make up our real-life behaviour, the reality is that I spend at least as much of my time as Ollie, and probably more, staring at a screen of one sort or another; I check my messages on my phone at least as often; I do at least as much online information-searching and product- or service-buying; I may not triple-screen but I routinely twin-screen in front of the TV, especially when there’s more than one sporting event happening at once; and I would much, much rather deal with financial services issues, questions and opportunities online than trudge across to an office somewhere for a meeting with someone who’s trying a bit too hard to sell me something.
OK, there are differences between us. Overall, Ollie uses a phone more and I use a computer or tablet more. (This may be partly just a fading-eyesight-and-type-size thing.) And in his social life, Ollie uses social media a lot more. But note my use of the words in his social life – Ollie has just about exactly as much, or rather as little, interest in interacting with his financial services providers on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram as I do.
It’s also probably fair to say – and I suppose this is perhaps the most important point – that Ollie may be more typical of his generation than I am of mine. It’s probably safe to assume that 22-year-olds are digitally- driven, whereas those born in 195-ahem are more divided.
But still, I’m sure my main point still stands: that if you’re looking to use digital more in the way that you deliver your financial advice/financial planning service, it’s absolutely not right to assume that this is only going to work for your younger (or indeed future) clients. Many, if not most, of the old farts will be just as happy with it.
I think I’ve already told you how, in the run-up to the RDR, my adviser explained to me that he would be adding more value by increasing our schedule of annual meetings from 2 to 3, and how I reacted with obvious disappointment and explained that if he wanted to add value he should reduce the schedule of annual meetings to one, or even ideally to zero. People find this story amusing, and it always gets a big laugh in conference presentations, but in fact I’m deadly serious. Looking at me, you could be forgiven if the words “old” and indeed “fart” came to mind. But planning a service for me, you’d be most unwise to proceed on that assumption.
(Charmeleon and Wigglytuff, by the way, in case I’ve left you wondering.)