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Do Young Clients Truly Want SRI? Some Advisors Just Don't Buy It

By Garrett Keyes October 19, 2018

Study after study says millennials and next generation investors want socially responsible investments, which can include ESG and sustainable investments.

Multiple studies from research firm GlobalData particularly show 46% of wealth managers believe socially responsible investments are important to the next generation of wealth managers, relative to the current generation, wealth management analyst Sergel Woldemichael says. Also, studies show about 40% of wealth managers believe socially responsible investments are as equally important to the next generation as they are for the current generation, Woldemichael adds. But Louis Cannataro, wealth management advisor of $800 million AUM firm Cannataro Park Avenue Financial, says he hasn’t seen that interest manifest among his millennial clients.

Cannataro reads about millennials’ interest in socially responsible investing more than he runs into it in the trenches, even though his firm has many clients in their early 30s – with some of their youngest clients being just 26 years old, he says. “We are very much exposed to people you think would be interesting in socially responsible investing but we just aren’t seeing it,” Cannataro says.

Younger clients are instead focused more on “where am I verses where do I want to be financially, and what returns do I need to get there,” he says. If the media is picking it up, some interest must be out there, Cannataro says, but he also claims there’s more talk than action on SRI and the true priorities of next gen investors. So, what are this cohort’s priorities? According to Cannataro they’re investment returns, taxes, expenses, and then “maybe socially responsible investing.”

Yet despite Cannataro’s claims, the latest GlobalData study continues to insist that many advisors believe the opposite. The study reveals that while SRI receives a low importance score among surveyed high net worth investors, more than half of the 25 wealth managers GlobalData surveyed still believe “millennials are committed to their money having more of a social impact than their elders.”

But Cannataro isn’t the only advisor reluctant to jump on the SRI bandwagon. When interviewed by FA-IQ last year FAs from Triad Financial Advisors and Concentus Wealth Advisors said similarly they weren’t seeing a “groundswell” of demand for ESG-styled investment funds.