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Millennials Rising By David Smith on Aug 9, 2019


In late July we conducted our popular Young Guns workshop for emerging leaders. It is now clearly the domain of the Millennials (born 1981-1996). How exciting is that! It was wonderful to see this cohort being so engaged in building their careers and taking leadership roles in their firms.

The challenge now for the Boomers and Gen Xers firms is to keep them motivated, interested and involved. Firms will need to adapt. In particular, developing flexible working policies, enabling working from home, finding ways to bring people into leadership positions when they may not wish to work full time are just some of the challenges firms are grappling with.

Video conferencing is one way that workplace flexibility can be addressed. I have advocated for some time now that firms need to invest in quality video conferencing infrastructure – soundproof rooms with baffles to reduce echo, high-quality microphones, lighting, a high definition camera and if in a large room, cameras that can move to track who is speaking at the time. This then enables remote workers to have quality participation in team meetings and training sessions. Without a quality set-up, it quickly becomes frustrating and falls into disuse. Of course, such a set-up can also enable video to be used to communicate with clients. The quality of the client’s set-up is less relevant. What is important is that you can be easily seen and heard by the client.

In our open forum sessions at Young Guns, it was clear that these rising millennials were looking to become involved in the strategic direction and management of the firm. They were concerned as to how they can influence the older generations. We suggested that where they felt that change was necessary that should put forward a case for change. It doesn’t need to be “War and Peace” – just a short document that outlines the issue or concern, why it’s a problem, how the problem might be addressed and the resources and time that it might take to implement the change. Many Boomers and Gen Xers are more than willing to be involved in change and will react favourably to a proactive suggestion from one of their young leaders that is well thought through.

One way to engage a firm’s emerging leaders and in fact everyone in the firm, is to consider taking a day out with the whole team. Over the years we have facilitated many of these days. Often leaders are concerned that they won’t get engagement from the team and the day will fall flat. However, in every case it has been a very positive experience. In groups, team members have been involved in developing ideas as to how the firm may improve how it does things, opportunities for growth, analysing strengths and weaknesses and considering ways that the firm can improve how people can work together. It is a time that people are mixed up to work with others they don’t normally work with – which builds stronger relationships across the firm. There should be some time for some fun as well with some team building games throughout the day. The end result is a feeling across the team that they are involved in something bigger than themselves and they have an appreciation and hopefully an alignment with where the firm is trying to go. They always end with people feeling very positive about the firm.

Now is also the time for the Boomers and Gen Xers to start to let go of some of the reigns at least and involve the Millennials in the management of the firm. Give them responsibility for some aspect of the firm. It could be technology or processes, quality control, marketing, training just to name a few. Get them to develop a plan as to what they will achieve over the next year and get them to report monthly on progress.

Encourage them to come up with ideas to take the firm forward. Could we create a completely online firm which their entire interaction with a client might be via technology using all the technologies available? Could we create a new financial services offering utilising technology such as robot advice platforms like Stockspot or investment marketplace platforms like OpenInvest to enable DIY investors to make better and more sophisticated choices? Could we transform our processes so that we reach the goal of 100% paperless? Can we successfully deploy a mobile app for clients? Can we make a move into big data and data analytics using tools like Microsoft Power BI to deliver new insights to clients? These are just some activities that some Millennials would love to drive.

In this time when it is increasingly difficult to find star emerging leaders, now is the time to nurture the Millennials you have to enable to reach their potential and become the driving force behind the future of your firm.

The success of our Young Guns Workshop has driven us to create a new offering to bring the Young Guns Workshop to your firm so that you can get all of your young leaders involved. We will customise your program with you based on the program delivered by Mark Holton and myself. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to find out more.

It’s going to be an exciting few years as we watch Millennials drive the next era for the profession. I feel very confident that the future is secure and the profession will flourish under their leadership.

Contact us if you’d like to find out more about our customised Young Guns Workshop where we bring the workshop to your firm to enable all your emerging leaders to participate.



  1. Andrew Bowden on August 20, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    It would be interesting to see any feedback from the participants 6 months down the track on how management reacts to these ideas. Are you planning any follow up? This is a conservative industry as you are only too aware. In the past disaffected staff might have departed to set up their own practice but do millennials have the same level of commitment to do that?

    The tools are available for increased advisory services but it may need specialists to be hired to provide it, similar to engaging a financial planner. As we know it is not easy for older practitioners to flick the switch to business advisory.

    • David Smith on August 21, 2019 at 5:22 pm

      Thanks Andrew. At this time we have no particular plans to follow-up. It is true that some of the older generation may struggle to be open in the way things might be done in the future. I suppose that was the purpose of this article to encourage them to be more open. It’s hard to generalise but I have already seen some willing to jump ship and create their own firm leveraging the latest technologies.

      One of the challenges I am seeing relates to the ability for the next generation to buy into the firm. This is driven by the credit squeeze and high house prices making it hard to borrow money to buy equity.

      Your point about business advisers is well made. However, the practitioner who has the client relationship is the one best situated to leverage that trust and to engage effectively with the client about other concerns they may have about their business or personal finances. They may not be the ultimate deliverer of the services but they are certainly needed to unlock the opportunity.

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