Adrian Boulding: The General Election – so where’s the App for that?

As politicians begin to twig there may be some point after all in courting the youngest generation of voters, Adrian Boulding has some thoughts on how they could go about doing so – and the research to prove it.

This General Election comes at a very apt moment for Dunstan Thomas as we have just concluded a major research exercise to probe what the Millennial Generation want from financial services providers.

In the process, we have uncovered some learning points that political parties, wanting to capture Millennials’ votes this time around, would do well to have considered before publishing their election manifestos. We expect to see some significant action being taken to capture the Millennial vote – particularly by the Conservatives as they are clearly playing catch-up with this demographic.

Traditionally, general election campaigns are targeted at older voters because the statistics show that older people are more likely to be registered as voters. And among those who have registered, the older ones are more likely to turn out on the day.

However, 8 June 2017 could be very different when you bear in mind how many Millennials Jeremy Corbyn mobilised to get himself elected as Labour Party leader just eight months ago. He reached out to young people who had not bothered to vote in Labour leadership elections before and persuaded them to vote for him.

There is plenty of time for that sort of outreach work in this election too. The deadline to get on the electoral register is 22 May and the deadline for postal vote applications is 23 May. And if getting to a polling station is difficult for you, then the deadline to appoint a proxy to vote for you is 31 May.

Take a look at the Labour Party website and you will find it is concentrating on getting people to register to vote, with actual Labour policies very much in the background compared with the importance of getting people onto the electoral roll.

We researched Millennials both face-to-face and online early this year, and the pattern we found was a very engaged group of people living life on multiple social media channels on their smartphone and expecting the sort of instant responses mobile apps can deliver.

We found that more than three quarters of Millennials spend in excess of two hours each day on their smartphone. The party that can adapt their campaigning behaviour to this new communication paradigm will do very well.

Some financial services companies have already adapted their communications to interact with Millennials better online. The days of sending a salesman round to talk face-to-face are gone. As well as this being too expensive, their customers probably will not  be in!

And telephoning them does not replace that either as many Millennials do not think the telephone is for talking on – their ringers are usually switched off. It seems to be only regulatory hoops that now require providers to send lengthy paperwork out to Millennials, and we know it is a waste as they are unlikely to read it.

The way companies handle complaints on Twitter is quite revealing. I often see angry tweets that tell a provider they have done something wrong and that the customer, trying to get restitution, has been hanging on the telephone for far too long.

They are very publicly ‘venting their spleen’ on Twitter and, not surprisingly, that tweet usually gets answered much more promptly, with a rather public apology and promise of action. Clearly, providers are already diverting resources away from telephone helpdesks and towards responding to customer issues trending on social media.

Well-integrated with their elders

What anybody dealing with Millennials needs to realise is that, while they are a generation with their own unique characteristics, they are well-integrated with their elders. Our survey found 27% of them are still living with one or both patents, 6% are living with aunts and uncles and 5% are living with grandparents.

And there is a degree of financial dependence too – already recognised by those marketing the new Lifetime ISA, which can be aimed either at its Millennial target audience or at Mum and Dad. Indeed, some LISA application forms already have a special section to cater for gifts from Mum and Dad.

We found that, on average nationwide, Millennials expect 24% of the deposit for their first home purchase to come from the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’. There is a regional variation to this, closely correlated to house prices. That important Mum and Dad contribution is highest in London at just over 30% and lowest in Northern Ireland at 15% where typically house prices are half the level of the rest of the UK.

Financial services companies are increasingly spotting these family ties and accounts can, in some cases, be linked so that any one member logging in can view account balances across the family. Some mortgage providers have products that allow Mum and Dad to use their savings as a temporary guarantee for their children’s mortgage payments.

Will politicians be able to respond to these sorts of changes and build them into their policy thinking in time for next month’s election? They need policies that will mean that both Millennials and their elders can prosper financially.

So maybe we will see more by way of transferable allowances. We each now have our own individual dividend allowance, personal savings allowance, ISA allowance and pensions annual allowance. Maybe these should be transferable around a family so that family finance becomes a team effort, with the allowances being used by different members, at different times, according to changing circumstances?

Adrian Boulding is director of retirement strategy at Dunstan Thomas