How should older financial advisors talk to potential millennial clients? Equally important, how should millennial advisors talk to potential older clients? Given the intergenerational wealth transfer in the U.S. that’s estimated at $59 trillion over the next 50 years, there’s potential for lots of miscommunication between advisors and different age cohorts taking part in this transfer. And that can be a problem for advisors who want to keep assets from their founding generation of clients in-house as those clients pass on and assets are distributed to their progeny. 

To help bridge the communication gap, Ivy Funds has created GenLink, which it says is the financial industry’s only formal continuing education course (1.5 credits) to help advisors relate across five generations. And while the generational wealth transfer helped frame the development of GenLink, the course aims to address generational differences that can arise across a gamut of financial conversations. 

“What’s fun about this program is it works both ways,” says Lori Dorsey, senior vice president of marketing at the Ivy Funds and self-described Gen Xer. “A lot of people out there are talking about how to talk to a millennial, and as much as I appreciate that we all have a lot to learn about how to talk to the next generation, the next generation needs to learn how to talk to the rest of us, too. We’re equally trying to build the next generation of advisors, and to do that they need to learn how to serve generations that came before them.”

GenLink was developed in partnership with BridgeWorks, a research firm focused on navigating generation gaps. It is a free, self-directed online program covering issues relating to five generations: traditionalist (pre-1946); baby boomer (1946-1964); Gen X (1965-1979); millennial (1980-1995) and “generation edge” (post-1996). 

The course looks at the personality traits, demographic shifts and financial outlooks among different generations. The premise is that developing awareness around clients’ distinct personalities and understanding the stories behind individual generations can help advisors build stronger relationships and better connect with clients in any age group. 

GenLink’s resources include reports, articles, videos and infographics. The program contains seven categories, along with the CE test itself. “It goes through an introductory thesis around the concept of how we study generations, as well as learning about your own generation, with the idea of putting into context how and why other generations feel and react to things differently,” Dorsey says. 

One of the program’s categories is called “Clash Points,” which deals with differing personalities among generations and how advisors can defuse potential conflicts. It helps to understand how conversations about products or services might create conflicts among people the advisor didn’t foresee. That way, he or she might learn how to explain things differently.

The Ivy Funds are advisor-sold mutual funds affiliated with Waddell & Reed Financial Inc., an asset manager with more than $100 billion in AUM firmwide, including its network of roughly 1,900 advisors. Dorsey says the hope is that GenLink gains traction with all of the advisor firms its wholesalers partner with. “Value-add programs are hard to come by that help advisors get an education without pitching a product. There’s nothing about a product here [in Ivy’s CE course],” she says. 

Dorsey says the goal of GenLink is to help advisors build a better practice, and in the process help Ivy Funds build long-term relationships with the advisors it works with.