A key principle to remember is that each client reacts differently to the same market events. This is because they each have a unique mix of behavioral biases. This begs the question, how will you manage your different clients’ emotions as the market changes?
In the financial planning process, some clients tend to make financial decisions that are based on past experiences, personal beliefs, what they like and to avoid mistakes. Fewer people make well considered forward thinking, long-term life financial planning decisions. But, each approach suggests a bias.
Writing for News Limiteds The Australian, Platinum Asset Management co-founder and managing director Kerr Neilson asks the following question.What is the biggest factor in investing? What is it that separates the winners from the losers? You might think its experience or numeracy or a particular understanding of an industry. All of these factors will be relevant, but the distinguishing feature is surely the presence of bias.
This is an interesting thought and much in evidence in the financial fraternities articles and blogs. But what is bias? How does it play into financial decisions? Can it be uncovered?
Investopedia explains ‘Bias’ as:
Some common psychological biases plaguing investors include: representative bias, cognitive dissonance, home bias, familiarity bias, mood and optimism, overconfidence bias, endowment effects, status quo bias, reference point & anchoring, law of small numbers, mental accounting, disposition effects, attachment bias, changing risk preference, media bias and internet information bias. http://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bias.asp
Can behavioral biases be uncovered?
Yes they can, because each person has an inherent hard-wired behavioral style which is the core of who they are and can be predicted with the right discovery process. Behavioral biases influence not only their behavior, but also their decision-making process. Daniel Kahneman (winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics) refers to this as a persons automatic decision-making biases in his 2012 book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”.
Robert Stammers, CFA Director, Investor Education notes in his article for Forbes – Perhaps the best advice for individual investors regarding bias is this: Avoid trying to outsmart the markets and instead work to outsmart yourself. Through self-examination and reflection, learn to recognize your own biases when they rear their heads.
Financial advisors need to be able to uncover a clients biases. Having this insight in advance of planning not only enables the advisor to educate the client, but it also flags areas where the client can be steered away from their emotional bias, which results in taking action based on feelings instead of facts.
Writing for the European Financial Review, H. Kent Baker and Victor Ricciardi observe:Investor behavior often deviates from logic and reason. Emotional processes, mental mistakes, and individual personality traits complicate investment decisions. Thus, investing is more than just analyzing numbers and making decisions to buy and sell various assets and securities. A large part of investing involves individual behavior. Ignoring or failing to grasp this concept can have a detrimental influence on portfolio performance. http://www.europeanfinancialreview.com/?p=512
A useful starting point in the advisor/client relationship is to uncover and understand that you, as an advisor, have your own investment biases and blind-spots that must be managed so that clients are not influenced by your behavior. Revealing these biases for the advisor, as well as the client, ensures a) the relationship will be built on trust and b) it will help mitigate the influence bias or predilection can have on decision making.