Communication

Behavioral Profiles Leverage Your Intuition

In the financial services industry there are a lot of supporters for the use of behavioral profiles as part of the client discovery process and there are some detractors from using them. Like in any situation where there are detractors most have not yet had a positive experience or seen the full benefits or simply have been listening to the wrong information. This is human nature.

Overall, I do believe that you can never have enough information about yourself, your clients and also your team. As Benjamin Disraeli said: “The most successful people are those who have the most information”. Of course you also need to have the best and most accurate information.

In my past few blogs I have made a very strong case for how by discovering the behavior of your clients you can help them achieve better investment returns and overall make better decisions. So accepting there are very strong benefits for discovering the behavior of your clients, the question becomes how do you do it? This is where there is a great divide. Although, in my view an unnecessary division of thought and approach. At the center of great client discovery is asking the right questions, or what I call “powerful questions”. I believe this is more effectively done when you use behavioral profiles and your intuition, not one or the other.

For some, client discovery is only done by asking questions and gauging the reaction of the clients to the questions in terms of how they respond. To a large degree, in this situation the advisor is relying on their intuition to firstly ask the right questions and then secondly to assess the response. There is no doubt a person’s intuition can be very strong particularly with a lot of experience and high degrees of self understanding and overall good people skills or what we call emotional intelligence. However, no human being can be perfect and we all have “blind spots” or things we do not see. A person’s blind spots will also be carried across into how they see others. Your ability to understand another person can be significantly impacted by how you are on that day let alone how the client is on that day. So, no matter how good your intuition normally is it is not always going to be accurate. Nevertheless, do not discard your intuition. That “gut feeling” or pulse of energy can be telling you a lot even if you have not yet analyzed all of what it means. A behavioral profile will help you with that analysis.

I know that I am a highly intuitive person and naturally learn a lot about people from conversations and asking questions. This is particularly true now that I have learned to get out of my own way and also because much better listening and empathy skills have been learned. Even then I still do not see everything. I am able to go much further and make the person I am mentoring or conversing with feel far more understood when I use profiles.

The point is that the “human element” is variable and we cannot by ourselves see everything at all times. So, what can we do to make our intuitive radar stronger? This is where well constructed and highly validated behavioral profiling systems that objectively measure human behavior can be used to leverage your intuition. As is illustrated by the graphic, there is a great amount of “below the surface” information about a person you need to find out about very quickly to help them make the right decisions. Further, the person also needs to know it for themselves so the have personal clarity. Often the 10% we see on the surface is the “party manners” and not the real person.

 

The specific benefits of using behavioral profiles in the discovery process to build a financial life plan include:

  1. Enhanced objectivity, consistency and measurement
  2. No assumptions are made about the client
  3. The provision of a natural starting point for safe discussions with clients on their unique terms
  4. Separation of your and the clients emotions ? avoid advisor bias
  5. Acceleration of trust because the same discovery questions are asked of each person within a couple, family, team
  6. Clients are better equipped to better articulate their thoughts when emotional
  7. The ability to more quickly gain greater clarity of issues which you intuitively identify
  8. Specific identification of strengths, struggles, aptitudes which provides a human capital development framework for wealth mentoring and coaching
  9. The ability to better manage client expectations based on greater clarity of needs and goals
  10. Serve the clients on their unique terms: “one client – one plan”
  11. Meet the know your client rules because through better documentation and discussion of client behavior
  12. Increases the transferability of the client relationship because the client behavior is data based

In using a behavioral profile the key is to firstly understand the purpose of the instrument and what it was designed to uncover. Then secondly, understand how to properly use it in client facilitation to get the maximum benefit for you and the client. The great users of a behavioral profile understand it is a tool which gets below the surface but it is not a substitute for discussions. Further, one has to be realistic that even the most reliable and accurate profile will not tell you 100% of who a person is. However, they can tell you a lot. As already said the profile is supposed to leverage your insights and ultimately improve the client experience. The key is your “bedside manner” in using the profile.


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?

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?

The Impact of Money on Your Family

What has been the impact of money on your family? This is a big question and one often addressed in a family meeting. Also, it is often asked by your financial advisor in the financial planning discussion.

There will be both positive and negative impacts of money on a family. In many ways these impacts will shape who the family is, determine the family relationships, define the family legacy and how the family is remembered by others. So, the impact of money is very significant.

Importantly, the impacts of money on the family will also shape each family member’s relationship to money. Your relationship to money will then have a large bearing on your relationship with the family.

Another question for a family meeting is what beliefs about money did your family give you? To understand this for yourself is very powerful for your development and building a healthy relationship to money. Then, having the family members share this together will be very revealing about their attitudes to the family and its purpose. Because every one in the family is different, there will be no surprise to find very different attitudes.

Remember, money and the belief systems built around it can do a lot of good in families and also it can do a lot of harm. The key point is to understand both perspectives for your own quality of life, financial planning and also building healthy family relationships and communication.

If you want a really good book to read on this topic, then get the Golden Ghetto by Jessie O’Neill.

Family Transparency

A common derailer that I have seen in many families is a lack of transparency. There is key information which is not being disclosed to other family members and, in some cases, to key people in a family business. Usually, this is caused by the holder of the information not trusting the other family members in some way. What is the cause? This is in part that person not trusting themselves and also having a desire for control and to manage outcomes. You will more often than not see this coming from the family leader who has a more naturally dominant behavioral style. You will also see this approach generally in at least one of the children. Interestingly, they expect transparency from everyone else.

Of course, there are times when it is appropriate not to disclose some sensitive information but you need to think very carefully about it. How will the other person feel?

The problem is that some of the other family members may either outright resent it when they find out. This will particularly be the case for those other family members who are very methodical and like plenty of information. Their tendency to trust is also lower. There will be others who will let it go for a few years, and then have a violent objection later when a problem emerges. Either way it does not build trust.

Whilst more open communication flows do create vulnerability which is difficult for some, it saves destructive behaviors later on which can rip a family and/or its business apart. Ultimately, this costs a lot more financially and non-financially.

One of the big points that I am bringing out in family meetings is to understand how to provide information to the different family members so there is trust. After all, trust is the currency of any family.

Information Flows Drive Energy

Last night I was called by a family friend (for the sake of the innocent, Amy) who was being pushed by an advisor to make a major decision in regard to transferring her retirement savings account. Why was Amy asking me the question?

Basically, she was feeling uncomfortable and very hesitant. And yet, Amy is normally a very confident decision-maker and is not completely inexperienced with financial matters.

The reason is that Amy’s financial advisor had made the recommendation and given her a huge envelope of documents to work through and absorb. Amy did not even know where to start. The whole thought of this was energy draining. Then the questions of what is the bottom line, what are the risks etc all come up. In essence, her level of trust is diminished.

The issue is not the fact that a proposal has been made. It is all about how the information has been provided. What you need to realize is that this was then negatively affecting Amy’s energy. What will happen? She could just make the decision and regret it later, or simply dismiss the proposal.

So, I gave Amy the very simple, but liberating solution, of asking her advisor to re-frame the proposal and provide in a summary format the benefits and costs of both the new solution and retaining the existing solution. The details can be checked afterwards as needed – which a detailed person will do.

What I am saying is that if you are the client, ask your advisor to communicate on your terms and then it will be easier to make a decision with comfort. If you are the advisor, build trust with your clients by asking them how they want the information provided. You may find that you will have a much happier and ultimately profitable client.

When people hesitate it is very often simply the way they have been communicated with. The information flows drive your energy to make good or bad decisions.