Demographic changes are impacting the retirement landscape

Communicating effectively with clients who span the various generations — from millennials to post-depression clients in their 80s and 90s — has become increasingly challenging. Methods of communication have become more diverse, encompassing digital technologies as well as the traditional telephone calls and face-to-face meetings. Preferred methods among clients vary across the generations.

Your communication strategy will, therefore, have to be flexible in order to enable you to communicate with clients using the medium — digital or otherwise — each client prefers.

To implement an effective communication strategy, you have to make sure you understand the communication preferences, values and needs of each demographic group, says Jim Vlahos, senior vice president of sales at Franklin Templeton Investments in Toronto.

Vlahos divides clients into four generations, which, he says, have distinct characteristics and communication preferences. These four groups are post-depression, baby boomer, Generation X and millennial clients.

Here are some of the communication preferences of the various generations:

> Post-depression clients
Post-depression era clients, that is, the parents of baby boomers, most of whom were born in the 1920s and 1930s, value face-to-face communication, Vlahos says. For elderly clients, this is “a tried and true” method, which builds their confidence.

These clients are unlikely to want any form of electronic or digital communication and, besides in-person communication, may choose paper-based methods for vehicles such as newsletters.

> Baby-boomer clients
Baby boomers, generally defined as those born between 1946 and 1965, are time-starved, Vlahos says.

You must find ways for them to save time in determining a method of communication, he says. Like their parents, boomers value face-to-face communication, but they prefer to meet less frequently. When boomers do meet you in person, Vlahos adds, meetings should be fairly short.

Vlahos suggests using a combination of communication methods, including phone calls, emails, videos and in-person meetings to be effective with baby boomers. If you send these clients paper-based communication, they will read it — but it has to be concise and to the point.

> Generation-X clients
While definitions of Generation X, the children of baby boomers, vary, they are generally those born in the 1970s and early 1980s. These are individuals who are “living for today,” Vlahos says. They recognize the role of financial advisors but do not necessarily see them in the same light as their parents do.

Gen Xers’ communication preferences are similar to those of baby boomers, Vlahos says, but they make more use of technology. These clients prefer more communication by email and, to a lesser extent, by telephone. They also make more use of the internet and prefer fewer face-to-face meetings.

> Millennials
“Millennial clients are the opposite of post depression-era clients,” Vlahos says. “They don’t value face time at all.”

Instead, millennials, who were born between the late 1980s and the early 2000s, place great value in technology, he says. They prefer texts to emails and phone calls, and spend a lot of time on social media. “They live for the moment,” Vlahos says, and they prefer to make their own decisions.

You should give millennials access to on-line tools and information, and have technology-based communication strategies. And you must be able to reach these clients through social media.

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