A report launched this week by Bank of the West considered how Millennials are engaging in impact investing and what obstacles they currently face in reaching their goals.
Millennials have a strong appetite for impact investing and are currently among the most active demographics in the space. However, more support is needed from financial advisors and the wealth management industry at large to help individuals in this cohort realize their impact-related objectives, a study says.
While 79 per cent of Millennials regard themselves as “impact investors,” over half of the 58 interviewees cited insufficient knowledge as a barrier they face in moving their assets into impact investments. Meanwhile, nearly 40 per cent said they face push-back from financial advisors, and roughly a third said the same about family members.
“While some Millennials, particularly those with several years of investing experience, are aggressively pursuing impact opportunities, many are still in the fledgling stage of their impact investing journeys and are lacking the proper knowledge to feel empowered in their decisions,” said Steve Prostano, head of Family Wealth Advisors at Bank of the West Wealth Management.
“We see a responsibility for investing intermediaries to provide the proper tools and information to this generation of investors. We also believe there is an opportunity for the more experienced Millennials to instill confidence in their peers,” Prostano said.
Clearly, financial advisors play a key role in connecting investors with impact investments, and philanthropy is often the first step to a future engagement in the field, the report said. However, many of the Millennials surveyed said their advisors have displayed a gap in knowledge of this space, as well as resistance when it comes to using technology with such endeavors.
“Millennials are eager to develop their knowledge around impact investing, and there’s a real opportunity for financial advisors to become advocates,” Prostano added. “If financial advisors adapt their practices to become more Millennial-friendly and develop collaborative impact investing solutions, they will be able to deliver real value to a growing segment of the population.”
The report, entitled Millennials and Impact Investing, was commissioned by Family Wealth Advisors and conducted by Toniic, a community for impact investors.
“Investor networks, advisors, educators, and family members can all be of service to Millennials by providing more access to impact investing thought leadership, tools and community,” said Alison Fort, acting chief executive and managing director at Toniic in the EMEA region.
Millennials define impact investing in a number of ways, according to the report, including: those who seek both financial and social impact returns (74 per cent); those who seek opportunities that align with their values, regardless of financial return (13 per cent); and those who seek financial returns first “with some social benefit” (9 per cent).
Further reinforcing that education is a weak spot, those that do not regard themselves as impact investors (21 per cent) said they lack the knowledge about the field, have not yet invested in impact investing, or simply aren't interested at this time.
In other observations from the study, many Millennials are taking a very “hands-on” approach to impact investing, with 64 per cent of those surveyed holding their assets individually. These individuals are active in managing these assets monthly, if not weekly, the report said.
Pierre Ramadier, executive vice president and head of Bank of the West’s wealth management group, also noted that Millennials place a high importance on philanthropy. “We expect that impact investing will not replace other philanthropic efforts, but rather will supplement Millennials’ approach to living an impactful life,” Ramadier said. “While Millennials continue to support impact investing through human and intellectual capital, we could see the industry grow and develop as Millennials enter the peak earning phase of their careers.”