Generation D For Digital -- Or Is It Distrust?

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Michael Cavacini is an aggressive investor who studies personal finance books for information and regards commission-based financial advisors as salespeople. At 28, the Philadelphia communications professional is a member of the Millennial Generation, but his attitudes also place him among a recently invented group called Generation D.

The "D" stands for "digital," according to Accenture, the consulting firm that created the classification while studying changing investor attitudes. It could also stand for "distrust," however. Along with being savvy users of social media and other 21st-Century communication platforms, this group -- which actually spans several generations -- displays marked misgivings about the financial community, especially banks and financial advisors.

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A perception that the last recession was to some extent caused by financial services industry missteps underlies the suspicion of financial advisors that Accenture's studies revealed, says Alex Pigliucci, global managing director of Accenture's wealth and asset management services unit. "They weren't sure if they were really salespeople or trusted advisors looking out for their best interest," Pigliucci said.

In the absence of warm and fuzzy feelings toward financial advisors, Gen D investors tended to look online for information about investing and to comparison shop vehicles and providers. Yet when they went to financial institution sites, Pigliucci said, they found technology a step or two behind what they could get from other vendors like retailers.

Wall Street wants to know about attitudes among Gen D investors because the 75 million members of Gen D hold $27 trillion in assets. And it's a cross-generational group that isn't covered by existing demographic studies. About half are 31- to 45-year-old Gen Xers. The rest are split almost equally between 21- to 30-year-old Millennials and 46- to 70-year-old Baby Boomers.