The set it and forget it mentality is becoming increasingly prevalent in the ever-evolving relationship between brands and Millennials. What do I mean by set it and forget it? One of the things we know about Millennials is that they would rather make an investment with their time at the beginning of a relationship with a new brand, then continuously throughout the duration of the relationship. If a brand can promise ongoing value without the hassle of ongoing management, Millennials are sold. This allows them to focus on and pursue the things they are most passionate about in life. This is absolutely critical to Millennials, 79% of whom define themselves more by their personal success than their professional success. Millennials believe that if they involve themselves in a certain degree of setting it at the beginning of a relationship, the brand will honor its promise and allow the Millennial to then responsibly forget it. As long as the brand continues to deliver throughout the course of the relationship, the responsible forgetfulness will continue to proliferate. It is also critical to note that this entire relationship is facilitated through technology with little to no human interaction. Millennials are two to three times as likely to trust their data to technology, particularly if that technology is recommended by a friend.
Now consider Baby Boomers, whose expectation is quite literally antithetical to that of the Millennial generation. Boomers expect and demand ongoing brand / consumer interplay for the duration of the relationship. The human connection is paramount to their experience. The interface is real-time and in person, at the very least it’s a phone call. In a forgettable scene from the movie Boiler Room, Jamie Kennedy’s character says, “If the stock falls she’ll call you everyday and God forbid the stock goes up, she’ll call you every fifteen minutes.” Substitute “she” for Boomers and the message is tantamount. Boomers believe that constant contact is not only their right, but their responsibility. Conversely, Millennials believe that trusting others to do their job allows them the freedom to take on other responsibilities. They would rather provide the setup and then stand back.
Using financial planning as an example, Boomers expect ongoing reports at regular intervals. They want to be able to manage the planners who are managing their money – even if they personally have no financial experience to speak of. Still, it is critical for Boomers to be able to call up their financial planner whenever they see fit. Millennials just aren’t at all interested in this. They trust companies like Wealthfront to deliver on their promise, if that promise speaks to them in a personalized and authentic way. Wealthfront exemplifies the set it and forget it mentality. Wealthfront “builds and manages your personalized, globally diversified investment portfolio, as the world’s largest and fastest growing, automated investment service.” This company requires your data input upfront to provide a personalized financial plan that they then, in a completely automated fashion, execute over a period of time determined by you. Wealthfront can quite literally make or manage millions of your dollars without you ever having to communicate with a live individual – a scenario most Boomers would characterize as nightmarish.
The typical private wealth manager will take a 1% to 1.5% management fee on the portfolio. Wealthfront takes a .25% fee. Currently Wealthfront manages over 2 billion in assets. They have done this in three and half years which is faster than Charles Schwab. So clearly this model is working and causing all kinds of disruption in the financial industry. Marc Andreesen says, “The disruption happens when software eliminates an expensive middleman with no discernible loss of quality.” If there is no discernible loss of quality, and companies like Wealthfront save you not only money, but time… To quote Marc Cuban, this is a reasonable ROT, or return on time. Cuban understands that time is one of the most valuable commodities.
My point is that maybe Millennials are really on to something here. They do understand their time is valuable. Who doesn’t? But unlike Boomers, Millennials are willing to do something about it. They actively practice set it and forget it. This is their mentality and their mantra. Why try to intervene in an area where they have no expertise? Even when planners are involved, Boomers still spend countless hours educating themselves on playing the stock market; Millennials spend a handful of hours researching an automated technology to play the stock market for them. Because this costs less and provides better ROT, it certainly would seem like Millennials are getting the better deal. Or are they just being lazy? Too trusting?
Good? Bad? Right? Wrong? Or perhaps too soon to tell? If Millennials continue to set it and forget it, then companies will continue to automate business models in an attempt to deliver the same returns with no discernible loss of quality. If this happens at scale, the services industry will never again be the same. One thing is for sure, the table is set for a generation lobbying for responsible forgetfulness, and who knows where that may lead?