Specialization has become the modus operandi of every modern financial advisor. In the digital age where investors have access to more choices than ever, the generalist philosophy of serving “anyone with money” is no longer a viable business model. According to the latest CEG Worldwide research, 70% of top financial advisors (those who earn $1 million or more annually) focus on niche clients or a specific component of the advisory market. Many go further to concentrate on a niche within a niche.
For instance, retirement planning used to be a relatively specialized area of wealth management. Now, it is the bare minimum. Nine out of 10 advisors consider themselves or their firm to be an expert in retirement planning. How can advisors carve out a true niche in today’s increasingly saturated “specialist” environment? Which underserved markets present the biggest opportunities for business growth?
At 75 million, Millennials represent the largest living generation in the United States. The vast majority of them do not have a financial advisor or even invest money. 79% of Americans aged 18 to 34 do not invest. That figure rises even higher to 85% for millennial women.
Why? The typical response is that they are too poor to do so. According to Pew Research Center, Millennials have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, combined with lower levels of wealth and personal income than their predecessor generations did in the same stage of life.
Despite the bleak statistic, they do not lack the resources to invest altogether. Millennials are the best-educated cohort to date, which is highly correlated to economic success. They are also on track to receive the greatest wealth transfer in history from their Baby Boomer parents. PWC estimates that by 2020 Millennials and Gen Xers will control more than half of all investable assets, or about $30 trillion.
The real reasons they don’t invest have much less to do with a shortage of assets, according to the Stash poll, but rather a disconnect with the financial services industry:
- Too confusing: 69% find investing to be overly complex
- Unrelatable: 60% of millennial women equate a typical investor to an old, white male
- Tech dependence: Over one third say they would trust an app with their money more than traditional investment firms
- Not enough money: 41% believe they don’t have sufficient funds to invest
If advisors can dispel some of those stereotypes and learn to speak the language of Millennials, the opportunities to build a niche business are endless.
Socially Conscious Investors
The modern investor is increasingly seeking to make a difference in the world with their money. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing has exploded in recent years. As of 2016, $8.72 trillion in ESG assets are under professional management, a 33% growth from two years ago.
Defined broadly as investments that match the social and ethical values an investor wants to support, the most common areas of focus are:
- Political spending/lobbying
- Climate change/sustainability
- Human rights
- Equal employment opportunity/executive compensation
- Negative/exclusionary screening (avoiding investing in goods/services deemed harmful or unethical)
Such rapid development in the ESG sector is making it difficult for the average investor to choose the right investments, and more importantly, to discern which companies are doing what they said they would. Advisors who can solve these issues will position themselves as leaders in an industry poised for substantial growth.
There are over 26.3 million foreigners working in the United States and millions more who are living here in various situations. Moving to a new country is a daunting enough challenge, making financial decisions even more so.
How do I file my taxes? How do I purchase a home? Can I take out a loan from the bank? Can I start a small business? I’m not American, can I still save for retirement here? What happens when I decide to go home? These are all important questions foreign nationals must address, and the consequences for getting them wrong can be serious.
This is where financial advisors can step in to help. There is significant room for specialization here, such as highly-skilled workers on H1B/O-1 visas, or people from specific regions like Europe or Asia. It will take some time to learn the specific requirements and laws your niche has to meet, but the rewards will be plentiful if you can establish yourself as an expert.
Civil rights for the LGBTQIA+ community may have advanced significantly over the last few years, but when it comes to personal finance, this demographic is lagging behind the rest.
Compared to the general population, LGBTQIA+ clients feel much less prepared to make wise financial decisions and lack basic knowledge regarding money management, according to a 2016-17 study conducted by Prudential Financial. This is especially true for the younger cohort: 6 in 10 LGBTQIA+ millennial and Gen X respondents said they are uncomfortable knowing what, when, or where to buy and sell.
They do not lack in means to do so, however. The study shows that LGBTQIA+ clients make on average more than the general population (25% of households make over $100,000 a year) and have comparable levels of debt, with close to half holding less than $10,000.
Despite having relative financial stability, few are adequately preparing for their financial future or taking proactive steps to get there. Only a third of LGBTQIA+ clients employ a financial advisor, which means there is significant room for growth in this market for planners who are willing to make an effort to understand the unique needs and challenges of this community.
The Bottom Line
Building your entire practice on one type of client is no easy task. There is a considerable amount of extra information and vernacular to learn; it also takes more than just time and education to gain the trust of a community you may not have any relationships with. But that is precisely why these clients are underserved and in great need of professional assistance.