Behavioral Marketing

Hugh Massie Year End Letter: Tough Years Drive Learning & Innovation

I know countless people who have taken the challenges and tumult of 2020 as an opportunity to level-set their life and business. So, as I put pen to paper to write my end-of-year letter, I’m reminded of courage like that.

Indeed, in the face of what may well be the most difficult global challenge most of us have faced, I salute those who have the courage and self-confidence to step into 2021 with new vigor, with a willingness to build their business, and maybe even with the inclination to take a different direction and start something new.

Whatever your (perhaps renewed) focus and outlook for 2021, I commend you.

DNA Behavior coping & flourishing during COVID-19

At DNA Behavior, we never could have known that the tools that are the core of our work and purpose would become significant to so many during the pandemic. A substantial number of businesses worked with us as they adapted to remote work. We helped them build a greater connection with their employees and their clients, which is vital to successful remote relationships.

These businesses gained access to scientifically based tools that enable them to manage the behavioral and communication issues these groups face as a consequence of remote work.

And, our Managing Director, Leon Morales (Initiator), and our Chief Learning Officer, Nikki Evans (Initiator), hosted a series of free webinars to help teams adjust to remote work and address best practices for remote team leadership. In this series we addressed common challenges and ways to handle miscommunications and uncertainties that arise. This series is available online for continued reference.

Our CTO, Ryan Scott (Reflective Thinker), donated his time to work with leaders at the University of Colorado Boulder. Ryan helped educate select leaders on how to move their teams to remote work, on behavioral attributes to adapt to this new work regime, and on accountability tools he uses while managing the DNA tech team.

Our CIL, Carol Pocklington (Facilitator), donated her time to speak with women in leadership who are required to work from home while also home-schooling children and running their businesses. They were keen to understand how to communicate with staff via social media or conferencing platforms, what previously unseen behaviors might surface and how best to juggle this tumultuous time.

Responding to the Digital Mandate

More than ever the global pandemic has accelerated the need for businesses to become behaviorally smarter by providing digital solutions to meet the growing customized needs of employees and clients.

Fortunately, over the past two years we have enhanced our API capability, enabling a wide array of business types and sizes to leverage 500+ behavioral insights (covering virtually every human habit) via this “plug in.” The DNA API has added a significant human element to data and demographic information with behavioral details on the way a person communicates, invests, works and lives.

For example, financial advisors are now able to have a greater real-time understanding of their investors’ reactions to market shifts and be prompted to proactively engage so they are guided through these challenging times.

On the business operations side, the DNA API enables leaders to get real-time behavioral insights to better understand how people cope with online/remote working and how to motivate them based on their individual personalities.

A growing number of established and start-up businesses have embraced the idea of building behavioral insights directly into their tech platforms. This enables them to deliver enhanced engagement, productivity and pin-pointed solutions for each person/interaction. (Without jettisoning the tech they already have, as DNA’s API provides a behavioral plug-in for existing systems and platforms.)

Businesses also are growing as they have applied our tools and strategized new ways of working, investing, building business and staying connected with one another. Without this intersection of technology and behavior, none of this could have been done so easily and cost effectively – and at such a scale – for so many different organizations.

Building the Behavioral Ecosystem

Our development did not stop with the DNA API. In October, we announced the launch of the next generation behavior tech stack platform to facilitate API integration and a marketplace for our partners to sell their unique DNA Behavior-powered offerings around the world: The Helix Gateway Behavioral Network.

We were determined to build on the increased DNA API-enabled partnerships that had developed during this difficult year. The goal of the gateway is to connect partners or distributors with all of the resources needed to build, develop and scale behavior-enabled businesses which offer unique solutions that can deliver customized experiences. We’re onboarding distributors who facilitate and speed the work of organizations “plugging in” DNA’s “behavioral chip” to existing software and systems and new apps.

To accelerate the growth of this behavioral ecosystem – which, in turn, benefits all users – we recently completed a wholesale integration with Zapier, providing immediate access to over 2500 technology businesses. Zapier is the best solution that connects apps and automates workflows, making connectivity easy for our busy global clients.

When you add on top industry partners and distributors – such as Schwab, Salesforce, Wired to Perform, Brilliant fit, ARQ, Hadeda, Finwello and the like – the tech pathway to networking is simple and uncomplicated, ready to onboard the next tranche of digitally focused businesses into our behaviorally driven ecosystem.

Rapid change presents challenges for our clients and business partners. And, while we have had the opportunity to rapidly respond to the tech needs of our clients, we recognize that this transformation should always include people and relationships.

Every High-Performer Needs a Coach

In this difficult season we also recognized that powerful and private coaching customized to the individual leader is needed now more than ever, so we set up a DNA Coach Network.

Our behavioral management solutions, apps and tools have helped thousands of leaders, coaches, financial advisors, families and individuals achieve greater self-awareness and EQ. And, now – with the DNA Coach Network – even more people the world over can tap into these solutions and expertise.

 After all, behind every successful person is a coach, sounding board or team of advisors.

Onward into 2021!

As a serial entrepreneur, former wealth manager and “recovering CPA,” I recommend focusing on the TIPS principle because being able to clearly define Talent, Identity, Purpose and Significance (TIPS) sidelines frustration.

Individuals may well have a life vision but don’t have the confidence to get there without a coach. Without such guidance and reflection, they may lose focus to realize their vision.

A behavioral coach quickly identifies performance derailers. These can be natural DNA behavior-driven struggles, which are often strengths…but overplayed.

Beyond figuring out your TIPS, a behavioral coach also can identify behavioral blind spots that eventually become weaknesses. Very often this aspect of coaching can help determine how, where and why relationships have soured. This insight is critical for anyone building a new business or looking to rescue one that has fallen into a difficult place.

Through behavioral coaching, move forward with self-awareness, which (again) involves being conscious of different aspects of self, including traits, behaviors, feelings and EQ. With scientifically validated behavioral discovery, self-awareness can begin.

So, as we head into 2021, I wish you health, happiness and success as you stay connected to your TIPS. By doing so you will maximize your potential and mitigate conflicts that de-rail “good,” including your personal and business relationships.

Setting your annual intentionality

I look forward to continuing our journey together – or taking that first step if you’re just getting started with us. For now, I’ll leave you with this quote for reflection.

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”

Winston Churchill

What quote best frames the year you have planned for yourself or your organization? Drop me a line telling me about it: hugh.massie@dnabehavior.com

The Security of Your Personality

The Security of Your Personality

Individuals often marvel at the amount of data that we have available with the DNA API. The follow-up question (often with skepticism) is what personal information DNA requires in order to provide it. We can now say: “None”, “zero”, “zilch”, “zip”, “nada”.

With the DNA API, participant data can remain completely anonymous – we don’t need client’s names, emails, date of birth, address, assets, anything. All we need is their responses to the psychometric questions.

Improvements to the DNA API:

Over the past year, we have seen trends of security breaches, data leakages, and data misuse. If your firm is as concerned as we are over this then you should be hesitant to provide any of your data to third-parties. Now, if you don’t have a business reason for us to know the identity of your clients, then simply don’t send it to us.

With the DNA API, client’s results are stored in our database using a GUID – ‘Globally Unique Identifier’. It is a 128-bit integer number used to identify people, places or things. In our case, each participant is assigned a GUID by our API partner. We store this value in our system alongside the behavioral data we have available and use this ID as the “name” of the client going forward.

In addition to modifying how we identify participants; we have also added 100’s of new behavioral insights and area adding 100’s more. We now can measure virtually every human habit an individual has for investing, life, working, or decision-making. If you are interested in learning more about our API, access the guide below.

Download the API GUIDE


Clients data is anonymous and lasts forever:

On client demo calls, we are often asked: “if the data remains anonymous on your system, how do you manage clients as they retake the process each year.” The beauty of the Natural Behavior product, the backbone of our API, is that clients do not need to retake the process, ever.

The results last a lifetime with our Natural Behavior assessment, unlike many other behavioral products out there. Natural Behavior is built using a forced-choice model which removes situational bias- this allows us to measure a client’s instinctive behaviors that don’t change after age two. This means that clients don’t have to re-take our assessment and their investing, work, and decision-making habits we provide insights on last a lifetime.

Other security measures we take to bolster security:

In addition, to allowing individuals to remain anonymous in our system, we have also taken many measures over the years to increase overall system security and align our processes with industry best practices. Below are some of the measures taken to ensure the security of the DNA Systems.

Active Security Monitoring:

DNA Behaviors application environment is enabled with a security service to actively monitor all of its resources. This system collects and processes security-related data, including configuration information, metadata, event logs, crash dump files and more. These processes help identify securities incidences in real-time.

This security service helps prevent, detect, and respond to threats with increased visibility into and control over the security of the DNA Systems. It provides integrated security monitoring and policy management across the network, helps detect threats that might otherwise go unnoticed, and works with a broad ecosystem of security solutions.

Security Pen tests:

Throughout the year, DNA Behavior works with an experienced third-party security consulting firm to perform both manual and automated vulnerability scans and penetration tests on our systems. The third-party security experts perform this penetration process using many methods such as those prescribed in OWASP methodology to identify potential vulnerabilities. All the vulnerabilities are then reviewed and fixed by our technology team and a final report is available. This penetration report is available to our client base. To request your copy, contact us.

Undergoing Security Reviews by enterprises:

DNA Behavior caters to all clients, large and small. When we work with large enterprise clients, the team routinely participates in security reviews with their technology team. This provides an objective additional eye on our processes and is readily welcomed by myself and my team.

Reviewing Trends in Security Breaches:

As part of my role, it is my responsibility to regularly review current trends and styles of breaches that are happening to firms around the globe. We regularly review the methods and mode of these breaches and make proactive steps to ensure that we are taking appropriate precautions to prevent a breach of that type.

To learn more, please speak with one of our DNA Behavior Specialists (LiveChat), email inquiries@dnabehavior.com, or visit DNA Behavior.

Corporate Culture, It Starts at the Top DNA Behavior

Corporate Culture, It Starts at the Top

Often in business, the way forward is not or but and. That is, not abandoning one cornerstone for another; rather, adding other building blocks as necessary. It’s the cumulative approach that can streamline savvy organizations who are able to move beyond the fear of adding additional elements or layers.

We’ve been seeing this trend in a way that is particularly connected to our work, at the intersection of data and behavior. But let’s look back a moment before looking forward.

Corporate Culture Five Years in the Making:

For the past five-plus years there has been a strong focus on corporate culture, including the installation of a Chief Corporate Culture Officer or some other executive-level champion of thoughtful, strategic culture initiatives. To a great degree, they focused on goals, alignment, and communication, with tentacles reaching into every corner of an organization. That is great and we should not throw out our emphasis on the power of a curated corporate culture.

Still, the last few years also have seen the amount of data organizations wield grow exponentially. That too is good and exciting, but only if they can fully leverage that data while at the same time deftly coordinating all the many aspects that affect and are affected by data or otherwise have to be part of the collaborative, comprehensive mix.

Chief of Corporate Culture:

So, let’s get back to that trend I hinted at above. At the intersection of culture, people, customer experience, big data, AI, machine learning and all of the other elements a robust organization must exist. Leaders are beginning to see the next overlay many will need to connect all of these dots. That is a Behavioral Science Officer or behavioral science team’s role. We know people approach and understand things differently and communicate in myriad ways. That’s what is driving these leaders to envision some sort of coordinated effort that leverages behavioral data across disparate areas of their business.

This might address anything from testing out new products, experimenting with words and customer retention to hiring, governance, regulation and accountability. In short, not only harvesting people data, but also ensuring it is valid and relevant and maximally redeployed to greatest effect.

A devil’s advocate might say of course this sounds like a good idea to someone who offers a validated behavioral discovery tech platform. But truth is, the need for a top-down, across-all embrace of behavioral science is bigger than just that tech platform, which could be one very effective part of such a rollout, but, still, only one part of it.

At Business DNA we help firms large and small their Corporate Culture. Register to learn more.

Behaviors Role in Corporate Culture:

The amount of data, including all sorts of behavioral data (whether harvested or not), generated and held by organizations will continue to grow. So will the need to improve everything from products to profits and accountability by leveraging the massive amounts of information. By managing behavior.

I would venture to say that even the early adopters of a behavior tech platform like ours would realize the most success by taking a big-picture, infrastructure approach to behavior sciences. Ultimately, the key is to activate all of the insight data you have (access to) so you can know, engage and grow employees and clients, anticipating what they want and need – and delivering it – maybe even before they know what they want.

All business is about people, and because business is a people science, we must understand human nature to truly excel at and understand business. Human nature is stable and needs to be understood; doing so can and will affect your bottom line. Using a behavioral science approach will identify the business goals and challenges that can be reached and resolved through the scalable and practical application of what I like to refer to as understanding people before numbers.

What areas of your organization would benefit from the layering in of behavioral science? And can you foresee a Chief of Corporate Culture or behavioral sciences team member in your organizations future?

I’m interested in your take on this, so talk back: Hmassie@dnabehavior.com. I’ll, of course, be watching this trend and any others that touch behavior, money, and tech. I promise to report back.

Network of business concept.

Is Enculturating Behavioral Sciences Next?

Often in business the way forward isn’t “or” but “and”. That is, not abandoning one cornerstone for another; rather, adding other building blocks as necessary. It’s the cumulative approach that can streamline savvy organizations who are able to move beyond the fear of adding additional elements or layers.

We’ve been seeing this trend in a way that is particularly germane to our work, at the nexus of data and behavior. But let’s look back a moment before looking forward.

For the past five-plus years there has been a strong focus on corporate culture, including the installation of a chief culture officer or some other executive-level champion of thoughtful, strategic culture initiatives. To a great degree they focused on goals, alignment and communication, with tentacles reaching into every corner of an organization. That is great and we should not throw out our emphasis on the power of a curated culture.

Still, the last few years also have seen the amount of data organizations wield grow exponentially. That too is good and exciting, but only if they can fully leverage that data while at the same time deftly coordinating all the many facets that affect and are affected by data or otherwise have to be part of the collaborative, comprehensive mix.

So, let’s get back to that trend I hinted at above. At the intersection of culture, people, customer experience, big data, AI, machine learning and all of the other elements a robust organization must coordinate, leaders are beginning to see the next overlay many will need to pull across all else (as they did when making culture a studied part of their infrastructure).

That is a Behavioral Science Officer or behavioral science team. We know people approach and understand things differently and communicate in myriad ways. That’s what is driving these leaders to envision some sort of coordinated effort that leverages behavioral data across disparate areas of their business.

This might address anything from testing out new products, experimenting with words and customer retention to hiring, governance, regulation and accountability. In short, not only harvesting people data, but also ensuring it is valid and relevant and maximally redeployed to greatest effect.

A devil’s advocate might say of course this sounds like a good idea to someone who offers a validated behavioral discovery tech platform. But truth is, the need for a top-down, across-all embrace of behavioral science is bigger than just that tech platform, which could be one very effective part of such a rollout, but, still, only one part of it.

The amount of data, including all sorts of behavioral data (whether harvested or not), generated and held by organizations will continue to grow. So will the need to improve everything from products to profits and accountability by leveraging the massive amounts of information. By managing behavior.

I would venture to say that even the early adopters of a behavior tech platform like ours would realize the most success by taking a big-picture, infrastructure approach to behavior sciences. Ultimately, the key is to activate all of the insight data you have (access to) so you can know, engage and grow employees and clients, anticipating what they want and need – and delivering it – maybe even before they know what they want.

All business is about people, and because business is a people science, we must understand human nature to truly excel at and understand business. Human nature is stable and needs to be understood; doing so can and will affect your bottom line. Using a behavioral science approach will identify the business goals and challenges that can be reached and resolved through the scalable and practical application of what I like to refer to as understanding people before numbers.

What areas of your organization would benefit from the layering in of behavioral science? And can you foresee a C-level behavioral sciences team member in your organization’s future?

I’m interested in your take on this, so talk back: HMassie@dnabehavior.com. I’ll of course be watching this trend and any others that touch behavior, money and tech. I promise to report back.

CEO Newsletter 2018

At the year end, looking at the year ahead…

The ever-quotable Warren Buffett says, “Never invest in a business you can’t understand.” Well, as we round out another terrific year, I want to challenge you a bit by noting that many of us regularly invest in people we may not understand. So, why make relatively blind “people investments” when you (hopefully) would not make such a financial investment?

Granted, I am a bit of a shameless evangelist for the power of validated behavioral insights, but I genuinely believe they are applicable – and I would venture imperative – across virtually any scenario, organization or industry. Harvard research tells us that 87% of business and life performance challenges are caused by behavioral differences. So, applying our proven online behavioral management solutions, may not take the number of those challenges to zero, but we can get you damn close.

One reason we can do that – in addition to our powerful products and processes – is that we have an impressive cadre of partners and colleagues who help us vet and deploy the solutions. In turn, our phenomenal clients invest in the process with us, providing valuable feedback that helps us – and them – play at a higher level. Winning is good, but a win-win is better.

It takes a (global) village

Because of those unparalleled alliances, we’re poised to not only play better in 2019, but to play bigger. Our team has discovered and embraced the book “Play Bigger”, which cleverly and clearly identifies the approach needed for positioning a company for high growth: It’s all about identifying the problem you are solving and setting your business up to be a category king (think Uber).

It is more about creativity in market positioning than directly disrupting an industry, though disruption can be the impact or part of it. Whatever work you are doing; this book is a “must read”. In fact, I am so enthusiastic about the book that I’ll commit to sending the first 18 people who respond to this (2019 will be DNA Behavior’s 18th year) the book – on me. Digital or hard-copy, your choice.

At DNA Behavior we are solving the problem of how an organization delivers meaningful customized experiences to its employees and clients on a mass scale. To do that you must know their unique style, and knowing their marketing “persona” based on demographics is not enough. Two people can have the same persona, but not the same personality. So, unless personality insights – beginning with communication insights – are integrated, you do not get there.

Meeting and exceeding the market

As we play bigger, we’ll be demonstrating, in the words of the book, what category we are king of: Online behavioral management. In 2019 we are launching our end-to-end real-time behavioral management tooling – a highly automated discovery profile debrief that is situationally dynamic. We already have this in Financial DNA with the “Market Mood” tool that integrates real-time stock market movements to behavioral style. But in 2019 we will take this further and also launch a platform for Business DNA. We can only do this now because technological developments allow us to, and the market place is demanding customization.

Thanks to you, 2018 has been a landmark year for landing major deals that implement our API strategy, through which we become the “behavioral chip” inside the tech platforms of other businesses. This helps us realize our brand promise of delivering meaningful experiences to employees and clients customized to their unique style. In particular, we have had success with large financial services firms and banks launching platforms in the employee financial wellness space. They all have very different angles and approaches – but the key point is that the online management of financial personality is here to stay and becoming a category king in its own right. This reinforces our strategy.

Validation and affirmation

We completed one of the world’s largest known behavioral finance studies looking at the financial behavior data of more than 35,000 people and how it connects to validated personality insights. The research demonstrates a high degree of alignment between the spending habits, planned giving, investing style and other behaviors to the personality style measured by DNA Behavior. We knew our system produces highly predictive results with a 91% overall reliability, this research confirms how people live it out.

Deloitte’s just-released 2019 Banking Industry Outlook also affirms our work and the path ahead we’ll be on with our banking (and other financial) partners and clients. This Big Four firm is optimistic, noting promising times ahead for banking and capital markets, as well as opportunities to double down on transformational technology, including an even better understanding and leveraging of data. We’re excited to be part of deciphering what that means to different organizations and helping them implement. (In the meantime, you may want to add this great Deloitte report to your reading list.)

We know what’s ahead; thanks for being part of it

Finally, our “why” in business is to foster people to become more self-empowered. The work noted above is a big step to achieving this “why” goal on a mass scale. We want to be part of changing the culture of business with the adoption of an Understanding People before Numbers approach. We know that, businesses of any category must do far more work in the area of culture if they are to grow on a sustainable basis. Behavioral management is just one of many components needed to build a strong culture.

Looping back to the wisdom of Warren, Buffett says, “Only when you combine sound intellect with emotional discipline do you get rational behavior.” I would posit that you also need that winning combination in order to optimize your organizational culture. So, in 2019 we will be championing the growth of culture and want all of you involved.

Let’s play bigger!

De-Mystifying The Multi-Dimensional Nature of An Investor's Risk Profile

What Is The Misunderstanding Of An Investor’s Risk Profile?

In my journey as a wealth mentor over the last 20 years, and developing a rigorous scientifically based behavioral finance approach for the last 15, I have watched the risk profiling discussion seriously evolve from denigration to one that is being more intelligently embraced and applied. From advisors, clients, compliance departments, and regulators: what is the misunderstanding of an investor’s risk profile?

The problem is a combination of factors:

  1. Lack of clarity in the terminology as to what defines risk profile. For instance, interchanging risk tolerance, risk perception, and risk capacity although all have different meanings.
  2. Regulators worldwide have created principles based laws around risk profiling. But the legislative vagueness leaves too much open for interpretation leaving many firms doing virtually nothing.
  3. Compliance departments allowing “tick-the-box” methods of risk profiling along a broad array of approaches from doing nothing, to guessing, observing, or 3-to-5 hacked together questions.
  4. Applying the risk profile in a linear way based on a single measurement.
  5. Lack of understanding risk profiling at a deeper level because many of the instruments and processes are slapdash and poorly constructed. Even the better tools are one dimensional but are used to measure all aspects of risk, which is wrong and misleading.
  6. The Inability of advisors/consultants to integrate risk profiling and behavioral discovery into the client onboarding process.
  7. An unwillingness to have the client invest time in additional questionnaires viewed as distracting from getting on-boarded.
  8. The plethora of online investing platforms leveraging a quick & dirty approach to “knowing the investor” without any real insights.

The positive development now is that there is a heightened awareness of the need to adopt a more formalized behavioral discovery process, recognizing that risk taking, tolerance, and loss aversion are separate and measurable personality traits. And it’s a combination of all the risk factors, along with many cognitive biases, that interplay in how decisions are made.

Further, the compliance environment is requiring a strengthening in processes because the #1 issue on the agenda of regulators is dealing with the increase in investor complaints from a lack of suitability. Suitable solutions will never be able to be satisfactorily offered with demonstrated client buy-in unless EACH of the multi-dimensional elements that make up the risk profile is understood by both the advisor and the client.

For the last 15 years in my role as a wealth mentor, I have been guiding advisors and clients to understand the multi-dimensional nature of their risk profile as highlighted in the table below.

Risk elementsA risk profile is not a single number determined in a vacuum. In fact, it is a quantifiable number made up of many measurable financial and personality based elements. Whether you use the Financial DNA Discovery Process or other platform, I suggest you follow these key steps to identify and apply risk profiling:

  1. Use the client’s long-term risk profile for building a long-term portfolio and predicting how they will intrinsically make decisions over the long term (this is what Daniel Kahneman refers to as the Level 1 behavior). The correct questionnaire structure is absolutely critical to getting this result. In my terms, this is the hard-wired natural DNA Behavior. The questionnaire should be designed and independently validated based on sound psychometric principles.
  2. Understand the short-term risk profile based on current situational attitudes and how the client manages themselves (Kahneman’s Level 2 behavior). This is what many risk tolerance questionnaires seek to measure with varying degrees of quality and accuracy.
  3. Separate the various calculations of the Risk Need to achieve the client’s goals and Risk Capacity being their financial ability to sustain losses from the various personality traits associated with risk, risk propensity (desire to take risks), risk tolerance (emotional ability to live with losses), loss aversion (emotional reaction to markets), risk and product perception (reaction to situations and products ), and risk preferences (personal evaluation of preparedness to take risk in a given situation or with a product).
  4. Know each client’s Risk Composure – how they are feeling during up and down market movements. Some will embrace down markets and others will fear them. Of course, added to this is knowing how to communicate with clients during these different times.
  5. When wealth mentoring the client, help them set purpose based goals that are clearly defined for keeping them focused on what’s important. An IPS can be used as the guide-stick and for getting the client’s emotional buy-in.
  6. Finally, as an advisor, know the influence of your own risk profile and behavioral biases. Your mindset can inadvertently play out with the client whereby over time they eat your risk profile.

Here are other good resources that support the steps highlighted above:

1. OSC Study on Risk Profiling
2. Adopting a 2-dimensional risk tolerance assessment process
3. The sorry state of risk tolerance
4. How to measure risk tolerance