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Millennials need you (and you need them)

18th Feb 2016
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In his recent Xerocon keynote, Xero’s chief marketing officer Andy Lark noted a compelling statistic: Seventy percent of the 600,000 start ups launched in The UK in 2015 were millennials in the 18-34 demographic.

There is a lot that’s been said about Millennials, their social and spiritual habits are topics of intense media attention. But for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the socio-economic aspects (the comment section is there for the other stuff). As PwC notes in its recent report ‘Millenials and financial literacy’, “[Millennials] are better educated than their predecessors, more ethnically diverse, and more economically active”.

Simultaneously, Millennials confront greater difficulties than previous generations, including economic uncertainty, student debt than those who came before them. “Millennials owe a lot. They know too little. Millennials’ struggle with debt may eventually become our problem, too,” according to Annamaria Lusardi, Academic Director of the global financial literacy excellence centre at the George Washington University.

From an accountants’ perspective, you have a new generation of client financially industrious entrepreneurs, screaming out for financial advice. In PwC’s report, just under a quarter (24%) indicated basic financial knowledge. “Millennials are the least financially literate among all age groups,” writes Terry Sheridan on AccountingWEB US. “They understood more about mortgages and ‘numeracy’ than inflation, diversification, and bond concepts.”

The generation that is financially burdened is also easily amazed and satisfied. Just by doing what accountants do best, something like day-to-day compliance and tax optimisation, a practitioner can gain a new, loyal client.

Meg Pope, a millennial and events manager/digital marketing consultant, typifies this experience. “For my first ever tax return this year, I was expecting to pay £4000,” she says. “But my accountant worked his magic and brought it down to £940.” For members of financially strained, debt burdened generation - a tax run-of-the-mill saving on tax is a welcome gift. “For what I saved, I would’ve gladly paid him more than the fee he ended charging me,” says Pope.

“Everyone pays <taxes>, but you can help minimize them,” says AccountingWEB columnist Bryce Sanders. “Teach them simple things like recording the mileage when using their car for work and tallying the costs of publications they buy connected to their field of expertise. Every deduction counts.”

Millennials need you

“The research has documented that the gap between the amount of financial responsibility given to young [people] and their demonstrated ability to manage financial decisions is rapidly widening,” the PwC study states.

“This ‘knowledge deficit’,” wrote Sheridan, “could be a personal, economical, and social disaster”.

Simply put millennials need accountants. But do accountants want to deal with clients that have been cast as “selfie-posting, social-media-crazed underachievers”? Well, to return to Andy Lark’s statistic - you don’t really have much of a choice.

And you should want millennial clients, too. Even for young people who aren’t start-up innovators, the ‘side hustle’ - or second job - has become the norm. As The New York Times quipped, “The forward slash…is evolving into a kind of identity marker (paralegal/actress; fashion publicist/D.J.; advertising executive/gluten free baker)”. And for many of these young people, with forward slashes in their professional identities, their ambition is to go into business for themselves eventually.

Now, all they need is an accountant. 

Replies (10)

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Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
18th Feb 2016 18:56

What the hell is A millennial.
Why do people just make these ridiculous names up to describe age groups.

3 weeks ago nobody had heard of a millennial now it's like a goal by journalists as to how many times they can enter in an article.

Where was pulled pork 2 years ago now you get it served with everything.

What's the matter with calling people what they are like young adults or whatever without inventing buzz words to describe folk.

Thanks (11)
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
19th Feb 2016 10:11


There is no question that you need different skills dealing with young startups in their early 20's vs those in their late 20's or early 30's vs those long established in their 50's or 60's. 

Its generally about life experience, and how to deal with people on a professional level.  Hiring staff can be a big problem if you have barely been an employee, let alone hiring people who are 20 years older than you.  These are all learnt skills and if you are working for clients like this your coaching skills are required in full, but the clients will certainly be pleased about it as its all new ground for them and you can find even a little knowledge on your part can be valuable to them.  

I have several long term clients who started very early on and now have successful businesses. I had to do a lot more hand holding in the early days, but now I get the ££££ rewards from a long and trusting relationship.

But as above, this is universal, nothing to do with the current generation.  The main thing about the younger crowd at the moment is the tech side which is much better on average than 15 years ago, but they do seem to actually expect less in terms of personal service. No doubt due to being screwed over by large corporates, so some good old fashioned personal service goes down really well.

Thanks (0)
By Moonbeam
19th Feb 2016 12:31

Now I understand what a millenial is....

Funnily enough I know rather more than the OP would think. As do most other small practice accountants. Any one of us could have written this article.

For heavens sake tell me something (useful) that I'm unlikely to know, or post this sort of patronising stuff on a website full of morons.

Thanks (4)
By johnjenkins
19th Feb 2016 14:31


given you a thanks. See Francois I'm not the only one that thinks you write crap articles (no personal affront intended).

Thanks (1)
By wilcoskip
22nd Feb 2016 12:10

Is this necessary

Look, I'm with most of you on the usefulness of, I'd say the majority of the articles that come out.

However, Sift run what is, to me, an immensely useful website which we presumably all get some benefit from - otherwise why are we here?

And we get that benefit FREE OF CHARGE.  No subs, no lifetime membership - we all muck in and we've got a pretty useful community going.

Sift obviously need to make money, and so we get adverts, sponsored articles and reports etc.

I find some of these useful, some of them not so useful.  But in recognition that it's the way the game has to work for Sift, I put up with them.

Is it really necessary to jump all over someone about an article that we don't particularly like or find useful?  Just move along.  Nothing to see here.


Thanks (4)
By johnjenkins
22nd Feb 2016 13:59

Well Obi 1

when you take the cinematics out of it what have you got? A headline which states the ObiIvious.

Thanks (0)
John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
22nd Feb 2016 15:42

I think understanding demographic trends is helpful

Some of the negativity coming at us about this article seems to arise from members who don't have much time for modern marketing techniques or the fads that appear to drive them.

But fads and fashions are an important part of professional life - for example, how many of you would be excited at this point by the prospect of marketing some excellent-sounding tax avoidance scheme?

The profession itself, and AccountingWEB as a mirror of that community, is seeing the emergence of different generational groups

When it comes to collecting content for the site, we find that there are different audiences for different kinds of material: tax knowledge and debates appeals most widely, but our coverage of cloud technology trends and Practice Excellence draw quite strong responses from groups of accountants (often from younger age groups) who are interested in those topics too.

The generational labels are widely used for categorising different demographic groups. When we have written about the plight of Baby Boomers or the emergence of a new wave of flexible, tech-driven firms set up by Generation X women, they both attracted strong audiences. So when Francois (a Millennial himself) picked up what Andy Lark said at Xerocon, it seemed like a good idea to get him to find out more about this demographic group and their business habits too.

We'll take the criticisms on board, but just because you aren't directly interested in this group and whatever it might be called, please don't assume that everyone else in our 120k membership thinks the same way.

One estimate I read recently suggested that Millennials have become the largest group within the US workforce, and I have made a rough assumption that the UK can't be too much different. And ignoring this group of potential clients and their particular needs might be a little short-sighted if the market for accounting services gets any more competitive.

Thanks (1)
By johnjenkins
22nd Feb 2016 16:45


Sorry young man but you have totally lost the point.

What do you actually think Accountants do? How do you think they get business? Do you think these youngsters are clueless about how to get an Accountant? How many of these ambitious youngsters actually go into business and survive? They're not all facebook and twitter wizards. So please do not make out that we are not doing our job and that we need marketing techniches to function.

Thanks (0)
By Moonbeam
22nd Feb 2016 20:01

A More Considered Response

It is fair to say I was having a bad day when I first read the article, and regret the viciousness of my remark. However it is what I feel. I have nothing whatsoever against Francois personally.

And I am wholly in favour of more and better marketing for accountants. As many of my local rivals have no interest or understanding of marketing that is a great help to me. It is also a sadness that so many business -people - not just accountants -won't take the time to learn about and use modern marketing techniques. They are vital if you need to increase your client base, as I do. In my opinion not making an effort with marketing is as bad as not getting basic bookkeeping done properly.

An article to us accountants about young entrepreneurs should at least acknowledge that we know they are there, have many of them as clients (some of mine were referred by their parents for whom I used to act), and for several years have observed the differences between them and our older clients. We know that they use emails/texts on mobile phones much more than any other communications and that there is no point in sending an email of more than a few lines to them, because they won't bother to scroll downwards to the end of the message. But we know lots of other things about them because we've had several years of experience dealing with them.

So telling us about these people as if we didn't know they existed is quite frankly, insulting.

But what about discussing how best to target our marketing at this group? A discussion about ways of finding where they hang out and the best way to hook up with them would be very beneficial to me in particular. As a 60 year old I wouldn't want to turn up at the sort of networking events they often go to. I suspect I am the age of their parents and both the last person to understand their social norms and the best to advise them on how to run their business and save tax.

Thanks (1)
By johnjenkins
23rd Feb 2016 10:51

The Welsh Dragon

used to be my hero but, Moonbeam, you're definately up there with him. You seem to have the ability to put my thoughts into words that make sense. Maybe I should've studied English language a bit better instead of starring out of the window.

So who's going to come back with "you had a window to stare out of"?

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