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Gen Y: Are You Looking At Them As Your Customers Or As Your Kids?

It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone in the life insurance world when I say that echo boomers (aka Generation Y, generally those under 30) are not a primary target and, to an extent, ignored by companies altogether.

When I ask executives why (or Y not?), I tend to hear responses like, “well, they don’t have any money,” or “they can’t get out of their own way financially,” or “they just don’t think about their own mortality enough to take any action.”

These sounded like great reasons for many years. Today the life insurance industry remains in a state of relatively flat growth, with fewer households owning life insurance, and the regulatory environment putting the whole industry under attack. With all of that going on, one must wonder where the growth is going to come from and, once again, we are back to looking at the why of Y.
Characteristics of Gen Y

I have observed some universal parenting trends that have been widely written about, particularly in the boomer generation. Boomers dealt with their own issues with authority by becoming friends with their kids and raising them differently than they were raised. They had trouble letting go of them as they grew up, often being labeled “helicopter parents,” hovering like a hawk and being involved in everything in their lives. Taking over. Taking control. Is that because boomer parents don’t trust their kids? Is it because they haven’t let them grow up? Is it because they really don’t want them to?

It is worth noting that, in my experience, the executive answers above come from boomers.

I believe many boomer executives fail to take Gen Y seriously because boomers view them as their own children rather than future customers.

Does that seem possible? And if it is, does it seem like a more emotional than rational response? More important, is the current world view sustainable? Certainly not forever. Gen Y is a very concerned, socially conscious group of young people. Eventually they will grow up. But who will rise to the occasion of providing a product to match their unique perspective? It’s an innovation challenge ripe for the picking—and life insurers should be starting now.

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