Suzanne Carawan, VP of Marketing and Communications at NAIFA, shares with us why storytelling matters for financial advisors and the radical potential of gamification. 

As part of our series Perspectives in Financial Services, L&T sat down with Suzanne Carawan, VP of Marketing and Communications for the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA). Suzanne shared with us her thoughts about how digital innovation can introduce new investors to a wide array of financial services, transforming financial planning from a dreaded task to a game of strategy with palpable payoffs.

1. Millennials Crave Credible Financial Advice — Excellent Design Establishes Credibility

We know that attractive, easy-to-use website design helps younger investors build and engage with their portfolio. But today, beautiful web design is also shorthand for something young investors crave — a trust source. 

Financial information is readily available online, but over 80 percent of Millennials are actively looking for reliable financial advice and would like more time with their financial advisor. Carawan observes: “When you have access to the technology, everyone thinks they can be an expert. But what many young people are looking for is an authentic, credible source, a source that has been vetted by trusted institutions.” 

Carawan explains that while many new customers want to build a relationship with an accredited financial advisor, they prefer to connect digitally first and also appreciate digital recommendations. Established financial institutions have the credibility young investors are looking for, but in order to reach a new demographic, their web design must reflect their reputation, or they will unwittingly turn away a digital-first demographic.

2. Smart Digital Storytelling Can Introduce a New Generation of Investors to a Range of Financial Products

According to a recent Accenture report, although many Millennials are interested in managing their wealth directly, they are also more likely to invest in separate accounts and wrap accounts — both of which are products overseen by wealth managers. As this demographic builds relationships with financial institutions and their holdings become more complex, they will likely require a wider range of financial products.  

Carawan points out that many investors, Millennials included, are hesitant to choose products like life insurance, despite its being a wise investment, because the topic can seem too serious or even depressing. It becomes, as Carawan puts it, “like that Hawaiian vacation, a vague plan to be executed at some point in the future.” 

Excellent web and UX design can not only jumpstart new investors, they can also help tell stories that encourage Millennials to consider insurance and other financial services products that are uncomfortable to think about —products that pertain to natural disasters, accidents, and deaths in the family. 

Good storytelling, Carawan explains, “can turn a serious financial decision into something that empowers you.” By investing in digital storytelling, financial institutions can help encourage a new generation of investors to embrace a wider set of insurance and financial planning products.  

3. Gamification and A More Financially Literate Demographic 

At the end of the day, Carawan thinks that Millennials are looking for digital tools that simplify   everyday financial decisions —decisions about how you structure your budget and cash flow. Carawan proposes “financial tools should help you piece together concrete things like how I am going to pay off college loans, cover rent, manage savings, and still go out for a cocktail.” She believes digital tools are unlikely to replace financial planners, but they can help deepen that relationship by making clients more financially literate.

Gamification, in particular, is already transforming financial education. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia developed “Investorville,” a game that allows the bank’s customers to simulate buying and owning a property.  ODBC Bank of Singapore developed Playmoolah to teach children the basics of financial decision-making. In fact, 65 percent of Millennials  would like more gamification to help them navigate investment options and remain engaged with their portfolio.

But as Carawan points out, simulated gaming does not have to involve big financial decisions or even building a portfolio — it can be about the quotidian things like after-work drinks and rent deposits that impact our finances. Carawan proposes that gamified financial planning “might even become a kind of SimCity, an immersive simulation to act out how you will manage everything in your financial life.”

Visualization and narrative are practically synonymous with financial decision-making, from a chartist’s fractal market graphs to Warren Buffet’s groves — a term he used to describe the various interconnected sectors and businesses in which his Berkshire Hathaway invests. There is no reason why financial services leaders should think differently about how they help the next generation of investors to make the decision to plan for their future.

Author Oliver Cox

Having originally joined the company as a writer in 2013, Oliver currently works as a full-time member of L&T's sales team to prospect, nurture and help close sales leads in the US and UK markets. Oliver is a graduate of the University of Liverpool and is a prolific musician and author.

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