During the past 10 or more years the field of behavioral finance has been gradually moving from theory and sporadic discussion to a more main line topic with increasing attention in the last few years being given to its practical application in every day consumer decision-making around financial products and solutions.
Now, behavioral finance has been given a significantly increased level of importance at a practical level with the UK regulator publicly expressing its views. In this regard, the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK has recently issued Occasional Paper No. 1: Applying behavioural economics at the Financial Conduct Authority – Click here to view the paper.
Clearly, this paper signifies that the UK regulator will be taking a greater behavioral finance direction in its overseeing of financial services. The subject of human behavior in financial services can now progress past investment risk profiling to knowing all of the behavioral biases that a consumer has in making financial choices, and relating those to product suitability.
The paper details the need for advisors to get deeper into the minds of consumers for helping them manage their behavioral biases to reduce mistakes and also mitigate the mismatch between a products declared function and the consumers actual use. More specifically it points out how advisors and clients are mostly blind to their biases and mistakenly trust their intuitions. Even advisors familiar with different type of biases find it difficult to spot how their biases affect a particular decision. In effect, the paper highlights the need for understanding the broader financial personality at a deeper level which is the inherent foundation of Financial DNA. This goes beyond the traditional risk profile which is singular in nature.
The question is how long will it before other regulatory authorities go down a similar path? Given the increased focus of regulators around the world on product suitability it may not be that long. The UK regulator in the past few years has been a clear leader with others looking to what they do.
What does this mean for advisory firms? In essence, firms will have to revisit their advisory processes particularly in the area of knowing the clients behavior. There are existing regulations and compliance obligations for knowing the client and product suitability. However, firms will have to do a lot more in their discovery work in the future to meet what will be increasing regulation and oversight in this area. Perhaps, it is time for firms to start preparing now? Our experience, is that firms who provide a great discovery experience are able to enhance client engagement. So, whilst the behavioral approach of the regulator may seem like a burden it can be converted to a sustainable revenue opportunity through greater client engagement.
To learn more about how the different behavioral biases of each investor and advisor can be discovered using an independently validated process, please visit the Financial DNA website.