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Working with millennials: Stereotypes vs. reality

Matt Pais

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Walsh notes the many ways in which this demographic may not be what you expect.

A client in his late 20s sits in your office, mostly just texting. When you can get his attention for a moment, he mostly wants to know if he can take your recommendations and use them with a different advisor. He really didn’t even want this in-person meeting and never answered the phone when you called to set it up. Besides: He has no money, doesn’t believe in insurance and will only work with you if you can make him rich by tomorrow.

That would not be a pleasant experience. That also, said Brendan Clune Walsh, would not be remotely his experience of what it’s actually like to work with millennials, defined as anyone born from 1981 to 1996 and thus aged 24-39.

“They’re a pleasure to work with and often more open to insurance,” said the nine-year MDRT member from Detroit, Michigan.

Walsh primarily focuses on estate planning for high-net-worth families and succession planning for corporations, but he and another advisor in his office (who actually is a millennial, while Walsh is a few years beyond the demographic) have worked with enough millennials to separate fact from fiction. For example:

The business-owner clients in their early 30s who Walsh says “were far more engaged in the process than some of my older clients.” That included coming into the office, even while many older clients want Walsh to come to them. “They were very receptive to advice about getting life and disability insurance to fund a buy-sell arrangement, and they saw us as experts in the field,” he said. “They were interested in what would happen down the line, not the immediate payoff, and they were very quick to make a decision about it.”

Or the client referred by his grandfather when he was just 26 who got married and followed up a few years later, more in the mindset to work with Walsh. “He was very receptive and interested initially, and now if he has financial questions, he calls me to pick my brain about things,” Walsh said. “He’s a very good saver, we see each other regularly face-to-face, and he’s very appreciative of what we do.”

A big piece of this, Walsh says, is that millennials are much more attuned to their financial situation than people give them credit for. That might be because of focusing on getting rid of student debt or because they saw the impact the 2008 financial crash had on their families. Regardless of the reason, Walsh has seen this demographic save more responsibly than many of his older clients.

Plus, he added, many of the labels affixed to millennials are, in fact, applicable to people of any age in 2020.

The idea that millennials don’t want to talk on the phone? Walsh has plenty of older clients who don’t want to either. It’s a reminder to know how every client prefers to communicate, whether it’s via phone call, email, text, LinkedIn (a favorite for Walsh) or otherwise, pending compliance.

Constantly distracted by their devices? Walsh has never had a meeting in which a millennial client was distracted by their phone or texting, and he notes that all of us at this point are programmed to react to a vibration or ding from our phones.

Instant gratification and disinterested in planning? For one thing, everyone wants things faster in a nonstop digital world that includes one-click purchasing, one-day shipping and electronic underwriting. For another, Walsh has a new millennial client who is the CEO of a startup organization and initiated the process of key person insurance on the company’s founder.

“I think millennials are more entrepreneurial than people would think,” Walsh said. “Once they grasp the concept of what we can do and how we can help, they see the value of it. It’s definitely a growing segment of our client base as they’re starting to emerge as the next generation of business owners and leaders.” 

Contact: Brendan Clune Walsh


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