Behavioral Finance

Wealth Mentoring Your Clients….Managing Behavior

Hang on. Where is the market going to? Will the Dow be 5000 in the next few months by June 2009 or 22000 in 6 years? Who knows. They are interesting questions. I have placed my own personal wager on the markets reaching these levels in those time frames with some friends. I have often talked about this with friends and clients since 1999. Japan could still get messy for the world yet as it has many unresolved issues. These problems coming down the pipeline have been a big part of my move into the human behavior business.

However, this whole discussion does call into question what is our role in advising clients? Is our role to help them manage their behavior or to get the highest maximum performance?

I have always said that financial planning risks are the sum of human behavioral risks (client and advisor) and market risks. Our whole Financial DNA program for investors and advisors has been predicated on this. Whilst the market itself cannot be managed by a client their reaction to it can be which comes back to human behavior management. There is university research which shows that 5% of a person’s wealth comes from their investments and 95% from their behavior.

I do believe 75% or more of our role is to save clients from themselves by helping manage their behavior. This involves educating, guiding, coaching and empowering them. What we call “Wealth Mentoring”. By adopting this approach you will be helping your clients obtain superior returns which far out weigh any level of fees that you can charge. The reality is that the key to successful investment is managing behavior.

Wealth Mentoring Transforms the Client Experience and Enhances Value

For the Wealth Mentoring approach to be successful the advisor must transform the client experience they provide. The client needs to experience the feeling that their life is more than money, their money has been humanized, a sense of improved relationships, discovery of life purpose and meaning, and finally a tailored portfolio built from the inside out. Then there must be an ongoing development experience involving wise counsel with the client knowing they have an improved quality life. Understanding their behavioral style and preferences is fundamental to all of this. Behavior shapes life decisions which in turn influence financial decisions. The linkage is very close.

Importantly, the value proposition to the client needs to be communicated. There are many tangible and intangible benefits of this approach. Research shows average mutual fund investors will over a 20 year period do themselves out of nearly 60% of the return produced by the average equity mutual fund. This means the average investor will significantly underperform the market and his own investments. So, if the average mutual fund return over the last 20 years is 10.81% and the average equity fund investor has averaged 4.48% then there is a 6.33% difference which represents the cost of not having a good planner. Hence a financial planner charging fees of 1% per annum and/or a retainer is very good value.

What is great is that now we have turbulent times lots of other leading commentators are coming out of the woodwork and giving this message loud and clear. We are at the start of a cultural revolution in the role of advisors in financial planning and the investors attitude to it. A revolution that is client centered and one from which everyone who plays the right game of managing behavior will be big winners. The philosophy of Understanding People before Numbers is here to stay.

The Advisors Value Proposition of a Wealth Mentoring Approach

Our last Whitepaper summarizes research that we have recently performed of 100 advisors with AUM over $50m. The conclusion is that far more client discovery could be performed and there is plenty of scope to introduce more fee based services which address the life of the client.

In my view what is ever good for the client will generally be good for the advisor in the long run. Lets look at why a behavioral “wealth mentoring” approach is good for the advisor’s bottom line let alone the credibility of their financial planning process and business.

The ROI for an advisor of adopting a systemized behavioral approach is driven by the ability to aid advisors in:

1. increasing client acquisition rates
2. increasing walletshare among existing clients
3. providing the justification for higher advice fees
4. increasing client retention rates
5. improving advisor productivity
6. increasing the business value.

Advisors who integrate a behavioral system into their practices find that they achieve these ROI goals by:

1. Establishing trust more rapidly with prospective clients through anticipating their communication, investment, and lifestyle needs

2. Gathering more assets from existing clients by positioning themselves as the client’s trusted advisor. Wealth mentoring facilitates client interactions that go well beyond investments and provides the basis for a deeper relationship with each client.

3. Supporting higher planning and advice fees through the offer of a powerful discovery process. Financial advisors may also use client centered systems to add new revenue generating services such as couple or family facilitation, executive life balance programs etc.

4. Improving relationships with problem clients. Advisors often struggle with a segment of their clients because their natural behaviors differ greatly with those of the advisor. While advisors may keep these relationships in good times, rocky markets require more careful facilitation to help clients feel understood.

5. Advisor productivity increases because once you know the behavior of the client it is easier and quicker to identify their needs, manage them and keep them committed to a plan. Alot of time can get burned for an advisor dealing with client changes and problems after year 1 which could have been addressed up-front.

6. Greater documentation of who the client is enables relationships to be transferred to other people within the practice and also when it is sold. This has a very positive impact on business value.

In terms of metrics, here is what we base the wealth mentoring value proposition on:

1. We have seen trends that advisors who adopt a client centred methodology are increasing their gross asset under management revenues by 25% or more per annum from new clients. Further, we are seeing them increase their fee for service revenues by 15% or more per annum. Also, there is enhanced client retention. Of course success from using any system is also up to the effort of the advisor.

We believe it is possible in respect of an average practice to help the principal advisor double their net take home profit over a 4 year period. This is achieved from segmenting the client base so it is fundamentally more productive and building the AUM and fee for service revenues from the top 100 or so clients. This is a substantial return on investment from our costs and the coaching cost.

2. From point 1, there is the ongoing business benefit that the increased revenues and profits translate to increased business value on sale. What we have also seen is that the behavioral data enables greater transferability of clients which is fundamental to the business value as revenue and profit sustainability post the sale are fundamental to the value.

Managing Your Clients Through Turbulent Times

Well the stock market has gone to 10 year lows. Has it hit the bottom? That is not necessarily the crucial issue although this downward spiral will be raising more fears. What is crucial is how you handle this situation in terms of your own behavior and managing that of your clients. If you read my last blog you will see research is showing that advisors are on the whole not going far enough in client discovery and in particular understanding behavior.

Here are some tips for managing your clients which are all based on having greater behavioral understanding:

  1. Help your client to objectively face the reality of their situation. This requires understanding how they will innately respond to times of change and difficulty. Are they a rational decision-maker or a procrastinator?
  2. To make your clients feel comfortable and respond to your advice communicate on their terms not through your lens.
  3. Re-evaluate your clients risk tolerance – most measures of risk tolerance are situational. You really want to know their hard-wired risk tolerance as this will be the paradigm from which they make decisions now and in the future.
  4. Build a behavioral portfolio for your clients – base the asset allocation on who they are.
  5. Review the clients product suitability from a behavioral standpoint.
  6. Re-build the overall financial plan recognizing who the client is and their changed circumstances.
  7. Critical to helping your clients move forward is to help them find what their true life purpose is. After all they will still be breathing tomorrow. So lets get a positive state of mind on how they will live their life.
  8. Review your client service team. Have you got “round pegs in round holes” for serving the clients? The advisor client match process is very important.
  9. Transform the client experience you provide. Look how you can make every aspect of it totally client centric and you will be amazed at the bottom line results.
  10. Project positive energy and confidence. This means being very comfortable with who you are and your planning approach. People like animals sense fears and will react.

Remember times of change and difficulty bring opportunity. Are you up to it?

Research Insights on Practice Behaviors

In February 2009 we completed cutting edge research on practice behaviors, giving a short survey to 100 leading financial advisors with practices having assets under management over $50 million. The overall conclusion would be that advisors could be doing more to use human behavioral insights as a foundation for building their practice in the future. The message is not that human behavior is seen as unimportant by advisors. Rather, more behavioral discovery could be done. This behavioral information could then be far better leveraged to improve performance for the practice and your clients.

Read the article HERE.

Finding Meaning In Your Life

For a few years now there has been an increasing trend toward people taking steps to find greater meaning in their life. Gradually, more and more people are having the courage to do it and not just talk about it. This may involve turning their back on what is a well paid job and years of study and even moving from where they live. I even believe that this desire to find meaning will increase with turbulent financial times which could be quite dislocating for some. To survive emotionally and financially people will have to change their perspective on life and their relationship to money so that their meaning is not as much defined by how much they have.

I know for myself the Financial DNA business exists today because this is a major life transformation I made. I found my deep passion is to help people worldwide to become more financially empowered through greater self understanding of how they are wired. This was a big shift from the numbers world of accounting, tax and packaging investments for people. What I do know is that your quality of life in every dimension can increase well beyond where you are today if you take the plunge.

I would encourage everyone to discover who they are and what would provide the greatest meaning in your life. Do not die with regrets. Of course a fear is the financial consequences. Remember getting there is a building process and will not happen overnight. Putting a plan in place is the key to start with and thereafter you can manifest it step by step over a number of years.

Also, there is the fear of actually what am I passionate about? How do I discover that? There are processes for discovery which are both structured and more feelings based. We are helping many people around the world with discovering their passions as this is a core part of reaching a greater level of becoming more financially empowered. If you would like some inspiration click on the link to this USA Today article on 24 September 2008.

Uncovering Human Behavior Risks

Generally in business, and particularly in financial services, people associate risk with the markets or economy. What we fail to drill down into are the risks caused by human behavior. Another way of looking at this is to consider how people handle the market risks. What decisions do they make? What solutions do they come up with? How do they manage their emotions? How do they communicate?

In essence, the market risks can be managed or exacerbated by human behavior. So, what needs to be better understood is how your people are going to handle market and economic risks that may be impacting your business. This will be particularly important when they are under pressure. What are their blind spots? What are your blind spots? Then, how will you manage your people so the risks are better managed?

Through our Financial DNA profiles we are able to reliably predict how people will behave and therefore the risks they may cause. Will they take too many chances? Will they be too impatient? Are they too independent and not accountable? We have found that the profiles are able to provide great insights into the true behavior of people when they are under pressure. Having this information can help you put in place the right management controls and also to provide the individuals with more self-awareness of how they will make decisions which could cause or exacerbate market risks. There is no doubt a large part of the success or failure of businesses in the long term comes down to being aware of and managing human behavior. You only have to look at some of the major corporate and banking disasters to see this.

So how aware are you of the risks that your people could be causing to the future of your business?

Dreams and Goals

Would you prefer to be asked about your dreams or your goals?

Last week in one of our Wealth Mentor Community Calls we discussed this very question. Prior to the meeting, I had the Wealth Mentor participants read a book called the Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly. This book really brings out the connective power of encouraging people to get in touch with their dreams.

The point that emerged during the discussion was that most people would prefer to be asked about their dreams rather than goals. The word dreams is softer and has greater resonance for most people. Also, the concept of dreams is less restrictive and more free-flowing. Goals are perceived more as actions and objectives that need to be defined and measured. People often associate “SMART” with goals – specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time based.

Kelly also brings out in his book how important dreams are to building your relationship with money as they are fundamental to who you are. He really emphasizes how life and financial decisions are totally integrated. Therefore, getting in touch with your dreams is fundamental to building both your life and wealth.

In a nutshell, if you want to open your client up to what they really want in their financial life then consider firstly asking them about their dreams. The goals can be discussed and worked out later. They will usually come from the dreams. You may find that this is also more fun which also helps build the trust.

No harm could be done by getting your clients to read the Dream Manager. Even if all you do is ask your clients to write down a big list of dreams then you are off to a great start in discovering who they are and building a great relationship. Imagine the possibilities when you get couples doing this or what could happen in a family meeting?