There are an estimated 74 million millennials in the US and another 9 million in Canada. In both countries, they have become, if not the greatest generation, then certainly the biggest generation. Yet there seem to be as many clichés about millennials as there are millennials.

Some of the most common clichés include:

  • They have been coddled and pampered as children, and always told they are exceptional.
  • They don’t like to work.
  • They don’t buy houses or cars, but they buy craft beers and artisanal cheeses.
  • They obtain information online and usually shop online as well.
  • They are permanently glued to their smart phones and spend endless hours on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.
  • They don’t trust big corporations.

There is an element of truth in most clichés, of course, and some of these statements are true about some millennials. More recently, however, some new facts about millennials have come to light. They tend, for example, to be frugal (unlike their Boomer and Gen-X parents and more like their Greatest Generation grandparents). They put time and effort into saving money and planning for the future. And, gradually, they are joining the mainstream, buying houses and (sometimes) cars.

The fact is that millennials haven’t had it easy. They have come of age at a time when career and economic opportunities are constrained. But the evidence is that they have learned to deal with the situation and have found new ways of building lives, careers and families.

This has significant strategic implications for insurers. Developing a mobile app to track auto insurance claims processing is great, but it doesn’t do much in building a relationship with potential customers who may not own a car.  Life and personal lines insurers should be thinking hard, not just about using the channels through which millennials do business, but about developing the products and services that millennials might really wish to buy.  In Part II of this blog we will look at several of these strategic options.

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