Let's not look unkindly upon Millennials as the plastic pop-loving and celebrity-obsessed freaks we see in the media, for study of this much-maligned generation reveals a sophisticated and market-leading force – and this is true of investment too.
It is the curse of every generation of young people to be scorned by their elders. The "Baby Boomers" copped it for the rise of rock and roll, flower-power and the associated anti-social behaviour so-loathed by the war generation.
Then came "Generation X" – the punk rock and rave generation that drove the rise of acid-house and the ecstasy culture. This generation drove the Baby-Boomers – their parents – to similar levels of disgust.
And now the "Millennials" – the sons and daughters of Generation X – are . . . doing what? It appears that such rebellion as there is, is not as visible as in previous youth generations.
Their music and literature isn't telling them to resist the political and corporate machine. So what are they resisting?
Investing for the future
According to this year's annual Legg Mason Global Investor Survey, they are resisting investment for their future. It seems that Millennials - the 18-35-year olds born between 1982-1999 – are not saving enough.
They are surprisingly risk averse, according to the survey, marked by the stock market reactions to the 2001 dotcom bubble and the 2008 financial crisis.
James Norman at Legg Mason, in a recent article for Business Insider, cites a Brookings Institution survey that showed 52% of those aged between 21-36 reported keeping their savings in cash.
But things are always apt to change and, indeed, they may already be doing so. Someone aged 25 today, still has a good 40 years at least left to work, and as they move into their peak earnings years, the compulsion to save becomes stronger.
Millennials investing trends
Many Millennials are now making their voices heard in the world of finance as they lead the push into more ethical areas of investment.
They are ditching oil-, tobacco- and arms-rich portfolios in favour of socially responsible investing and they are convincing a number of high-profile investors to do the same.
In the US, it could almost be an anti-Trump backlash as young investors protest about the US President's climate change denial and apparent willingness to use a pro-business agenda to overturn regulatory oversight.
California's state pension fund Calpers is one of the most highly-visible investors that is attempting to re-align its portfolio towards a more ethical leaning.
Its decision earlier this year, along with Axa, Scor and AMP Capital, to sell all tobacco investments was promoted by World No Tobacco Day.
Their statement read: "We in the investment community are becoming increasingly aware of the important role we can play in helping to address the health and societal impacts of tobacco."
Calpers has previous form – investing in green technologies, bans on investment in arms manufacturers and coal companies – and has gained as much criticism as praise for "playing politics with pensions".
But the trend is rising. And growth in socially responsible assets is as important in this trend as the growth in those wanting to invest in them.
In 2007, Oppenheimer Funds and US trade group SIF Foundation recorded $202bn of investor capital in actively managed in socially responsible investment (SRI) vehicles in the US – including mutual funds, exchange traded funds (ETFs) and closed end funds.
At the end of 2016 there was more than ten times this amount – $2.6tn.
In the UK, the retail SRI market is now worth about £15bn, up from £12bn less than three years ago, according to data from Triodos Bank, which recently launched a sustainable investment current account.
"It's still a relatively small proportion of the UK investment market, but it is on an upward trend," says Huw Davies, head of Triodos' retail banking unit.
"This now includes both retail customers and institutional investors who are starting to question what they're investing in, and whether it makes more sense to be investing sustainably."
Why such growth?
There are several reasons for this growth – not least the expanding investment universe. Eliminating tobacco, alcohol, arms and gambling from their portfolios no longer goes far enough for many investors.
Modern SRI portfolios are guided by a number of environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics that take into account themes such as carbon emissions, fraud, employee relations and other ethical values.
“In the US negative screening in ethical investing is by far the biggest strategy, whereas in Europe they're much more focused on ESG,” says Muna Abu-Habsa, director of fund research at Morningstar, the fund rating agency.
But it is not just about ethics – It's also about sustainability: forget annual growth targets of 20%. Many companies have come unstuck trying to maintain such profitability – unstuck either by their failure to achieve and falling foul of subsequent downgrades, or because their efforts to achieve led them down the path of "creative" accounting, or unscrupulous measures.
The realisation is growing among younger investors, that a sustainable, responsibly governed company sits far better in a portfolio than a company run by a tyrant urging his staff to do everything it takes to achieve unsustainable profit goals.
Davies adds: "There has been a shift, and it's something we believe, that companies which put an emphasis on sustainability will be more successful in the longer term."
The demographics are unsurprising. Millennials are becoming ever hungrier for such investments as it is another way of expressing their social, political and environmental values.
"More people are taking an active consideration of how they consume things – what transport they use, what energy and food they buy and where it's coming from,” says Davies.
Nearly two-thirds of 18-34 year olds polled by Triodos said they would like their money to support companies that are making a positive contribution to society.