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Millennials… Generation Y… Gen Y – whatever you want to call them, they have come of age. Born between the mid-90s and the early 2000s, they’re the first truly global generation, and the first to have grown up in the Internet era.

They came out of the womb practically hardwired into the matrix, and their familiarity with mobile devices and social media is what makes them “digital natives”. Their ease with technology empowers them to manage their lives almost entirely from a device that they can fit into their pocket. And importantly for investors, they’ve have amassed their wealth rather quickly.

For many companies, their survival will be contingent on their re-examining how they function and tailoring their business models to suit the lifestyles of these young people… young people who are reshaping the global economy over their smashed avocado brunches.

Tech savvy digital natives

As the generation that has no idea what a fax machine is, they are seriously into their smartphones. Millennials and mobile is not a cliché: well over 90% of them have a smartphone. But it’s not just about WhatsApp and TikTok. Millennials eat, drink, breathe and sleep innovation and technology. And their consumer patterns have changed beyond recognition. Ask a baby boomer what they’re doing staring at their mobile, and they’ll tell you that they’re trying to locate the space bar or make it ring louder. Ask a millennial what she is doing, and she will tell you that she is increasing her monthly mortgage repayments. Or turning the lights on back home. Or uploading proof of her vaccination status to a travel website. Or trading stocks.

So it makes sense for Investment Quorum to be targeting portfolios where the emphasis is firmly on disruptive innovation across all sectors – not just technology – so as to leverage these changing consumption patterns.

China – again

There are lots of them

If millennials constitute an important target demographic in the UK, there are many more of them in China – some 400 million of them. And since university education is cheap, they are not weighed down by mountains of student debt. So basically, they are ready to spend, spend, spend… and spearhead the post-pandemic recovery.

Driving demand

As savvy as their European counterparts, they use their phones for everything from paying bills to engaging with social media, driving demand for luxury goods, consumer electronics and more. Millennials in China love their luxury brands. By 2024, they are expected to account for 40% of global luxury goods sales, with the under 30s accounting for 58% of buyers. And they want more electronics too. The revenue that Apple gets from China is upwards of US$40 billion per annum.

They are entrepreneurial

Most Chinese millennials would start their own business tomorrow if they had difficulty finding a job, and most believe that technology has created numerous opportunities for them. All of this tech-driven optimism has created a plethora of young billionaires. And the combined wealth of the country’s 900 or so of them stands at a staggering US$4 trillion – a sevenfold increase in ten years.

Goodbye cash

As the consumer economy has evolved, buying behaviour has changed. The new Chinese millennials want rapidity and convenience – they’ve gone almost cashless, for example. They are embracing cashless mobile payments, fuelling the rapid growth of fintech. Nearly all transactions are completed via their phones, consigning cashpoint queueing to the history books.

Physical fitness and mental wellness

Wellness might still be a nebulous concept in the UK, but it’s big business for millennials across the globe. Many people say that they’ve become more focused on their wellness since Covid, and that their mental well-being is the most important element of their health. Both mental wellness and physical fitness have significantly grown in importance since the crisis: people are eating healthily, exercising more, and – more often than not – choosing health over wealth.

And what’s enabling (indeed catalysing) this shift? Again, the answer is technology. Garmins and Fitbits do much more than measure the distance you’ve run, the number of steps you’ve stepped or how many lycra-clad old men you’ve sped past: they’re helping people stay hydrated, lower their heart rate, reduce their stress levels and relax. And all the data gleaned by these devices can be accessed from a phone. The last decade or so has seen a proliferation of apps and communities for aspiring athletes – they can set themselves goals, track their progress and share as much as they like via something like Strava, Garmin Connect or Zwift.

Sustainability across the board

They aren’t just interested in their own health and wealth: millennials are increasingly interested in using their money to save the planet. They want to find ways of marrying up human development goals while simultaneously sustaining our planet’s ability to provide the natural resources on which the economy depends.

Millennials have realised they don’t need to be Musk or Attenborough to drive change. They don’t have as much invested as previous generations, so their portfolios are “nimbler”. In short, they can “be” the change that they want to experience. They can download an app to their phone (Revolut, Nutmeg or Moneybox) and start impact investing in five minutes.

If the financial sector is to succeed in catering to the needs of these wealthy young folk (who are set to inherit some US$30 trillion over the next few decades), it is going to have to create more sustainable investing options that are more in tune with their ideologies and convictions. In fact one day, absolutely everything we do – from buying cake ingredients to saving money to buy a house will need to be done sustainably. Investing and sustainability will go hand-in-hand.

A new paradigm has dawned, has it not?

Given how numerous, wealthy and savvy they are, it’s worthwhile engaging with and understanding these younger investors. Financial advisers interested in winning a chunk of this new business need to look beyond the clichés (“millennials are Instagram-addicted narcissists who fritter away their money on expensive craft ales instead of saving for the future”) and find out what drives them.

To win them over, we need to transition away from product-focused models and adopt a forward-thinking approach based on actually meeting their needs. Robo-advisers that enable investments in funds at the tap of a smartphone button most certainly have their place in the modern world. But Investment Quorum is focused on tailoring its approach so it can work with younger investors and help them achieve their goals. We know that such relationships can be mutually beneficial. After all, these people are the custodians of tomorrow.


Nick Rolf is the Director of Private Clients
Nick spent a number of years working on global equity markets in London and Hong Kong and is passionate about investment advice and tax planning for private clients and trustees. He has expertise in estate and trust planning, retirement planning and pensions, and individual and corporate protection.


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