Making a horse drink: the challenges of getting young people to invest

The Bitcoin bubble may be the extent of many a young person’s investment knowledge. It shows regulated investment has a marketing challenge and greater education is required.

It is one thing getting young people to engage with financial advice, but a whole new set of challenges arise when it comes to investing. A large part of this stems from the fact investing is primarily about patience and focusing on the long term.

Recently, young peoples’ only foray into investment is through cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which the panel was quick to confirm was very distinct from what they are trying to talk to clients about.

‘It’s gambling ultimately and what we try and do is not gamble with people’s future,’ said Dart Capital investment manager Kirsty Stone. ‘It goes against everything we try to create in the relationships with our clients.’

However, our panellists were forced to admit that, despite their fundamental failings,
cryptocurrencies have been able to do something mainstream hasn’t and successfully appeal to younger generations.

‘We’ve got a bit of a battle for attention at the moment,’ said Chris Daems, managing director of Cervello Financial Planning. ‘Bitcoin is big news, quick wins. The stories
sound incredulous because they are, but how do we as a profession compete with that?’

Here, regulated investment has a marketing challenge and greater education is required. Cryptocurrencies may have gained interest with the advertised notion of ‘quick wins’, but many investors-to-be are also put off by the risk of losses.

However, losses are an inevitable fact of life when it comes to investing when some risk needs to be taken on. Michael Filgate, regional sales manager at Invesco Asset Management Limited, said there needs to be better education around the subject of risk and how this can play a crucial role in gaining returns.

‘[Young people] might think: “OK, my cash on deposit returns so little so I’ll invest my savings in the market’, said Filgate. ‘Well, that course of action is actually fraught with risk and in fact there are varying levels that a person can take that will move them up and down the risk spectrum. I think it’s that educational piece and engaging with them early that is key.’


One area of regulated investing that has the potential to attract new investors is around environmental, about a lot more. It does come up in the conversations when we go into schools.’

However, a long-running issue with ESG portfolios is the difficulty their added complexity brings and the fact one investor’s definition of ethical could differ greatly to someone else’s. Therefore, as a starting point for young people who are just getting to grips with investing, Nathan Mead-Wellings, director and senior financial adviser at Finura, warned there could be a danger in this.

‘Yes, there’s a place for it. But then of course, there’s the danger of investing in that area for the sake of investing in it.’

However, the panel widely agreed the issue of social responsibility could still have an influential role at a business level. With younger people holding brands to greater scrutiny, this embracing of ESG portfolios could help move financial services in the right direction in terms of credibility as a profession.

This was the view of Amyr Rocha-Lima, charted financial planner at Holland Hahn & Wills. His firm does not proactively market ESG portfolios but this change in mindset has allowed them to strengthen connections to the community and a new audience of
potential clients and investors.

‘From our perspective, we’ve now started gaining credibility from our clients, by actually being more socially responsible as a firm ourselves’, said Rocha-Lima.

‘Both in the charity level, in trying to help and get involved at the grassroots level of the community, but equally, with presenting at schools, offering internships for students that are in their A-levels. Granted this won’t make a big dent in the world in and of itself. But I think the client is seeing, these guys are actually talking about this and then they’re going out and delivering within our little five-mile radius.’


In 2019, it is impossible for a financial adviser to overlook technology and especially the role it can play in client communications (i.e. client portals). The panel were in agreement that embracing technology the right way is critical to connecting with younger generations of clients and encouraging them to invest.

‘I don’t think we’ve actually even got a choice about this matter,’ said Phil Patient, group chief operating officer and private client wealth specialist at HFMC Wealth. ‘You’ve got to have this stuff for somebody to take you seriously.’

However, with millennials reported to check their phones 120 times a day on average, Stone warned about the downsides of immediate access to portfolios: ‘The risk with having immediate access to a valuation is it just causes a huge amount of stress if you’re losing money.

‘I have come across people who have had bad experiences. That’s not what you want when you’re at the outset and you’re making a financial plan with someone.’ It’s a tricky one for advisers to approach in their foray into technology. Could too much
information be counterintuitive? Patient was quick to point out that, investment-watching aside, there is a demand for dashboardtype services for people’s financial matters.

He added: ‘Many firms have had portals for years but clients don’t use them. Why? We haven’t put things in there that clients want, we put things in there that we want them to see. Now that’s a really different dynamic.

‘So if you’ve got something where you can make that their go-to hub, put their Will on there, put absolutely everything else on, it can aggregate all their spending patterns from their bank, all of those things then it is of interest as it is about them. Things that Starling Bank and Monzo Bank are doing, that are a bit more interesting.’


Taking a suitably long-term view, the panel all admitted the challenge was in the present to get young people – tomorrow’s investors – to begin to think and talk about finance and investing. From an industry-wide perspective, Rocha-Lima thought greater collaboration would make the difference.

‘It’s important within our communities that financial planning businesses, together with our professional bodies (and the asset management and wealth management communities), can continue this rebranding of financial planning as a genuine profession so people start approaching us,’ said Rocha-Lima.

‘If we just keep striving to rebrand this into a true profession, people will feel more comfortable about seeking us out.’

For Jessica McGuigan, financial planner at Critchleys, this rebrand needs to be significant if it is to break through to the next generation of savers and investors.

‘We need to listen and I feel like, as a profession, financial planning in the past hasn’t been so willing to change and evolve,’ said McGuigan. ‘It’s still been quite stuck in its ways and I think, especially with things like fintech, it’s just showing how businesses do need to change and adapt their business models with the times and get involved and use fintech within their firms to make sure that they can attract that younger audience.’