Millennials might be known as the "me me me generation," the tech-savvy generation that popularized selfies. Generation Y clients, however, aren't as preoccupied with themselves as they may appear when it comes to their investments. According to a recent U.S Trust study, millennials are prioritizing social, environmental issues and the greater good when choosing an investing strategy.
Social impact investing, a strategy that combines positive social-environmental and financial returns, is the preferred financial planning approach for young HNW clients, according to the annual U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth Survey. Bank of America's elite wealth management unit surveyed 684 HNW investors and found millennials made social impact investments more than any other age group. More than 85% of millennial respondents expressed an interest in or owned social impact investments.
"It is very much an identity point for millennials," says Jackie VanderBrug, an investment strategist with U.S. Trust. "They are conscious consumers and not surprising that they are conscious investors too."
U.S. Trust wasn't alone in this finding. Proving Worth – The values of Affluent Millennials in North America, a research study completed by OppenheimerFunds and Campden Research, showed that 64% of Gen Y respondents were interested or very interested in impact investing.
"Millennials want to do good," says Ned Dane, Head of Private Client Group at OppenheimerFunds. "They are using their family wealth to solve world issues."
Basic human rights are the primary focus of millennials' impact investing strategies, according to OppenheimerFunds and Campden Research. Both firms and U.S. Trust also cite education, healthcare quality and environmental sustainability as some of the top issues young clients show most interest in.
When it comes to solving issues, millennials see greater value and effectiveness in using a combination of both philanthropy and impacting investing, VanderBrug says.
"Philanthropic dollars are just not enough to solve social challenges," says the U.S. Trust investment strategist. "Young investors have greater confidence in the private sector to resolve them. It is a combination of an acute sense of the needs of the world and the unprecedented belief of what capitalism can do.”
ADVISERS AS COMPANIONS
Millennials, however, are not looking for philanthropic guidance from wealth planners. In fact, they are confident in choosing the charity of their choice, according to Dane. Young wealthy clients want advisers to help them find a social initiative and investment strategy that make a good fit, he says.
85% of OppenheimerFunds' respondents say they want advisers to find and vet direct investments opportunities. The study also finds that while millennials may show strong interest in impact investing, they are still unsure of how to structure the investments.
Many advisers, however, are avoiding the conversation of impact investing because they don't feel qualified. But clients are not looking for an expert in planners, VanderBrug says.
"(Clients) want advisers to go on a journey with them, understand their social goals and help address portfolio questions like asset allocation strategies." she adds.
HNW millennial investors want guidance on how they could consolidate their causes into their portfolios, VanderBrug explains.
THE NUTS AND BOLTS
According to U.S Trust, a common investment strategy is to use an integrated approach that looks at a cross section of asset classes and incorporates a client's desired social and financial impact with the available investment tools.
VanderBrug adds that another common strategy is to use other investments to reduce risk. Examples of impact investing include the purchase of publically-traded stocks from companies with pledged social missions or buying into funds that focus on socially responsible investing assets, such as ethical bond funds.
Clients also show interest in green products by venture capitalists, hedge funds and private equity, Dane says. According to data obtained from Scorpio Partnership, millennials are 5 times more likely to invest in hedge fund or private equity products than previous generations.
Investment accountability, long-term investments, sustainability and measurability are the key characteristics UHNW young clients look for in their impact-investing portfolios, according to OppenheimerFunds and Campden Research.
U.S. Trust's VanderBrug, however, points out that measurability of the impact itself in these investments is difficult to quantify and accountability remains a huge issue.
"(But) millennials have a good nose for authenticity," VanderBrug says. "They can figure out companies that have a diverse leadership and address issues proposed and promised."
CHALLENGES ADVISERS FACE
An adviser's main test in journeying with young clients is structuring an impact-investing portfolio that merges a desired cause with the suitable financial product, Dane says.
Wealth managers have to help clients articulate their desired social impact while maintaining financial sense.
Many families might be open to impact investing but their existing portfolio does not have the structure for it, Dane explains. Advisers need to foster communication between millennial clients and their families in order to smooth the transition from a more traditional portfolio approach, to a more social-centric strategy.
Financial planners also may have to learn techniques for resolving family conflicts. According to OppenheimerFunds and Campden Research, 55% of millennials felt that their advisers are only average in this delicate skill set.
Data from Scorpio Partnership also shows that millennials are 10% less likely to participate in financial planning with their primary wealth managers.
OppenheimerFunds and Campden Research suggest that financial planners should maintain more frequent contact with their young clients by using communication platforms like Skype or through weekly emails. Advisers should also build their contacts with young clients through referral networks. The study found that 69% of millennial clients find advisers through recommendations from family, friends and colleagues. The study suggests this can help advisers develop long-term trusts with young clients, who tend to have shorter relationships with advisers.
This article was originally published at OnWallStreet.com.