Peita Diamantidis says her views on how the financial service industry communicates with its customers and clients started to come into focus in about 2014, when she wrote an article for the Actuaries Institute magazine, entitled “The public are from Mars and we’re from Venus: the failure of financial services communication”.

In that article, Diamantidis suggested that proof of the financial services industry’s inability to really connect with its consumers was borne out by the fact that “they desperately want to get on top of things, however for some reason do not seem to be reaching out to the right parts of the financial services industry in their droves.”

“To begin improving the way in which we communicate with the Australian public we need to take a long hard look at ourselves,” Diamantidis wrote.

“Anyone who succeeds in this space will not demand more of their customers, but instead will demand more of themselves. They won’t ask how we can better teach them Venutian, they will instead ask … how do we learn Martian?”

Speaking in Sydney last week at the launch of new research, Diamantidis said the 2014 article “sort of stirred in me this belief that we are failing the public”.

“When we started to ask people, the public feels like we talk in an alien language they will never understand,” she said.

“We really need to think about that. It’s something that I started to think, all right, OK, what can we do better?”

Whole kit and Caboodle

Diamantidis, the managing director of Caboodle Financial Services, says that two years later, when she is presenting to “uni students and to younger people,” it is clear that not only do they think the financial services industry – including accountants, advisers, fund managers, banks and insurance companies – speaks in an alien language they will never understand, “they also think that unless they have kids and buy a house, that we think they are invisible.”

“That’s horrifying, that our industry is missing such a massive portion of the Australian public,” she says.

“So when we realised that, that’s when the Investing in Millennials survey was born. We went out there and we asked a whole lot of them – nearly 400 – and the results you’re seeing here today are the highlights.”

Diamantidis says the research also debunks some myths about Millennials as consumers. For example, there is a popular perception that they spend a lot of time on Facebook and are only interested in the latest social media platforms.

“If you check out the results, that’s not necessarily true when they are researching information,” she says. “There’s some interesting lessons there.”

What Millennials want

Diamantidis says a very clear message from the research is that financial planners need to stop “assuming we know what’s best for the public.”

“We need to start asking – we need to literally ask them what they want, and then deliver it,” she says.

“I know that sounds obvious but I don’t know that there’s that many feedback sessions that our industry does. Do we get people in the room and ask them what they would really like us to deliver? I don’t know that that ever happens. I think we need to do more of that.

“Proof positive is the answers on what the Millennials wish the financial services industry delivered. There’s a good 10 app ideas, there’s a whole lot of opportunities sitting right there, that people could deliver on. So I think we need to be asking more.”

And it would also help to void lecturing clients, or telling them what to do and what’s good (or bad) for them.

“We really need to look at ourselves as educators, but even more importantly, we need to inspire them, we need to motivate them and we need to connect to them,” Diamantidis says.

“And I think that’s an important difference.”

Make them laugh

Diamantidis says that of all the characteristics the research found that Millennials want their financial planner to possess, number one is a sense of humour.

“Isn’t that interesting?” she says.

“What they’re looking for is Gruen for financial services information. They want a comedian sitting there, connecting with experts, that means they can laugh and also learn something. We don’t quite have a Gruen. There’s work there to do.”

Diamantidis sys there are also insights from the research into how Millennials view robo-advice and other fintechs.

“If you take a look at the way this particular sector of the market wants to learn, 60 per cent want to learn face to face. So we’re probably going to need to combine fintech solutions with some great workshop seminars and education solutions.

“I’d be thinking about who you’re going to use as personalities to educate the public, because I don’t think apps are going to do it on their own.”

Give them an ‘excellent adventure’

Via her Zaptitude website and a book, Finance Action Hero: Mission Possible, Dimantidis says she communicates “money stuff without the mumbo jumbo.” The website makes connections to financial planning in unexpected ways – for example, a review of the Matt Damon movie “The Martian” is written to include aspects of managing money. Dimantidis says Millennials react better to advice provided in the context of “adventures” than as “goals.”

“I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear ‘goals’ I think ‘personal training’ – mental picture,” she says.

“But … adventures are exciting and you want to do them, you’re a bit afraid but you’re excited and you’ll do whatever it takes to get it done. I really think we need to start changing the vocabulary we use with the public.

“Our industry needs to learn to tell stories. We need to open up and connect with the public.

“Imagine if every person in financial service in this room wrote a book on their own take about money. That’s an awesome thing, that’s not a bad thing. That’s us, getting our messages out there, in our voice.”

 

Highlights of the research

What personality does the ideal financial expert have?
Sense of humour – 69%
Simplifies the complex – 66%
Casual/relaxed – 48%
Technical/detailed – 29%
Suit-wearing professional – 26%
Serious – 16%
The combination of the top three characteristics are core to the art of storytelling and require us to be willing to share more of ourselves as human beings with our audience, rather than just our views as professionals.

How do they want to learn new things?
In person:
Longer-term face-to-face courses – 45%
Live workshops or seminars – 21%
Online
Online at-you-own-pace courses – 22%
Online live courses – 7%
Downloadable audio sessions – 5%

Where do they go to research?
Information to date has indicated that Millennials are living on the newer social media platforms like Snapchat rather than the “old school” platforms like Facebook. This suggests our industry therefore needs to be keeping up with the new platforms as they gain in popularity and usage. However, when asked where they might get research on money and how to get going on their specific life adventure it became clear that there is a distinction between where they live socially, and where they go to find out information. The lesson here is an important distinction between where they go to collect information versus where may be best to build further connection and interaction with this generation.

Information versus interaction
The preferred social media platforms to research money and their chose life adventure were:
Facebook – 76%
YouTube – 40%
LinkedIn – 34%
Instagram – 29%
Google+ – 15%
Snapchat – 10%
Twitter – 8%
Pinterest – 5%
Tumblr – 4%

Source: Investing in Millennials, Zaptitude, 2016

Simon Hoyle is head of market insight for CoreData Research.
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