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The younger generation needs better advice on impact investing

:2019/11/06

  


       Every wealth manager I meet will almost always, at some point in the conversation, tell me how stressful it is for the children of rich people to inherit money.

  This so-called Next Gen, as they are termed in private banking circles, feels under incredible pressure from their parents to prove themselves individually, they say. Especially as the parents are these days likely to have been highly successful entrepreneurs who made their own money.

  Their offspring feel at pains to show the world they are not the old-fashioned trust fund kids who simply spend their parents' money on parties, designer clothes or drugs.

  I nod and look sympathetic. But it is hard to suppress an eye roll. The stress of inheriting money feels low on the list of the world's problems.

  A recent Credit Suisse report quotes its global wealth management boss Iqbal Khan as saying: "The Next Generation are sometimes misconstrued as a group of privileged individuals lacking ambition. Based on my own experience, this is far from the truth."

  Ambition, perhaps. But certainly not privilege. Part of this earnest sympathy from wealth managers is that they are trying to show they are on rich kids' wavelength. They get it. In fact, they know there is a business case there.

  Firms face increased pressure to demonstrate value to younger generations, a report by consultancy EY has found, while warning how often the Next Gen change their adviser. It is not just about a sympathetic ear. Wealth advisers are also trying to stay relevant by offering products they think will appeal to younger people.

  Impact investing is the obvious one. Millennials (and others) are said to be increasingly keen to use their money and influence to invest more thoughtfully, in projects that can effect social or environmental change.

  The problem is that the next generation aren't the experts in impact investment that wealth managers might have us believe.

  While 64 per cent of the younger generation Credit Suisse surveyed were interested in impact investing, only 24 per cent had actually invested. and sustainable and impact investment ranked as the worst asset class in terms of both those who felt their knowledge of it was poor - more than 50 per cent - and those who felt their knowledge was excellent - just 8 per cent. At least the 8 per cent are trying to swell their ranks.

  I recently chatted with Abigail Noble, chief executive of The ImPact, a member network that aims to educate people about impact investing and whose co-founders include members of the Rockefeller and Pritzker families.

  She says things have changed a lot at wealth managers in recent years - almost all now have a head of impact or sustainable investment. But the issue is whether these people can get past the wealth advisers.

  "There's a strong culture of gatekeeping your clients, swimming within the lane, and presenting certain products according to what you're comfortable with and compliant," she says.

  But if younger generations unify their voices and explain that impact is important to them, she argues, then the banks will have to change. Turning stress about inheritance into impactful investment is something I can get behind. 

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