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Risk-tolerance

(Far) Beyond Risk-tolerance Questionnaires

My colleagues and I have been having an active discussion about the relevance of risk-tolerance questionnaires. So, I was excited to see a Sept. 6 article in the Wall Street Journal by Jason Zweig, “Knowing if you can stomach the next big market swing.”

Not the right data, not enough data

Zweig’s bottom line, “Any good adviser should devote more time to your risk capacity and your goals than to your risk tolerance.” In leading up to that point, he makes the case that risk-tolerance questionnaires not only don’t go far enough in that they target just that one metric, but also says they may not even be accurate in that area – at least not in the long run.

Research cited by Zweig notes that risk-tolerance questionnaires are susceptible to being short-circuited, for instance, by emotions of the moment. Thus, a questionnaire that should be predictive across your investing for years to come may really just reflect your risk tolerance or aversion that day.

Similarly, when looking at what different advisers do with risk-tolerance survey results, we see adviser bias. That is, the questionnaire’s results can be — and are — interpreted by financial pros in significantly different ways. Further, Zweig says its known that advisers often ignore the results of such surveys altogether.

This article identifies the problem with traditional risk profile questionnaires that we overcome with a more objective, non-situational psychometric model — validated insights that provide a fuller, more lasting set of robust data points that may be relied on, theoretically, in perpetuity and which cannot be gamed by investor or adviser.

The right info, better results

Among the differences with our 17-years-in-the-making Financial DNA tools: We do not have market-driven questions that lead to situational bias. We do not get into market perceptions. The questions we ask are neutral to education, experiences in the past, feelings and more.

We get a broader set of insights, including behavioral biases, spending, goals and communication. Most people do not understand risk because it is not explained well and knowing communication style powers better communication on such key points.

The power exists for investors and advisers to better assess risk…and to move beyond just that one metric. Still, I continue to hear — anecdotally and directly — that some advisers think their clients won’t take the time to complete the more accurate and more robust discovery process.

If I am to believe that, then it means most investors are not willing to spend 10 to 12 minutes gaining insights that will impact their portfolio for a lifetime. (Insights that, by the way, also can powerfully affect decision-making and relationships across any and all facets of our lives.)

Rubbish! That’s a supposition I cannot accept.

The proof is in the pudding

A forced-choice scoring model like ours is academically proven to be one standard deviation more accurate than the Likert Scoring Models (aka, situational questions used in traditional risk questionnaires). The traditional scoring model of risk profiles leads to over-inflated scoring and situational results, whereas forced-choice scoring provides a more accurate and reliable starting point for long-term decision making.

The forced-choice questions also lead to more predictive measurement, making a subjective process more objective. For example, non-situational phraseology consistently measures ingrained (rather than learned) behaviors. They lower the chance of misinterpretation. Traditional situational questions lead to inconsistent measurement, meaning responses change depending the situation and market, they are difficult to interpret and require more education, and they tend to over-state strengths (like risk tolerance) and understate struggles (challenges you and your adviser will face).

Finally, a short, tight discovery process deploys validated questions that lead to highly accurate, deep and reliable results which remain consistent for the long term. And again, they are harder to game.

Not convinced? Complete the Financial DNA discovery for no-cost and no-obligation. You’ll ultimately get a one-page infographic report with actionable insights. Now, imagine sharing that report with your adviser (or with your client if you are the adviser) and having this brief investment of your time paying dividends across your portfolio and the rest of your life – for a lifetime.

Digital key in keyhole in information security concept

Financial Advisors See Data as a Differentiator

This article first appeared on Nasdaq.

With financial advisors under considerable pressure to strengthen their competitive position through an improved understanding of their clients, adding a behavioral insight tool to the client onboarding process can help advisors obtain new insights about a client’s behavior and financial personality.

In doing so, it is imperative for firms to interrogate this data that is relevant to each client. The way to use data as a differentiator is to know clients at a deeper level. Their decision-making style, spending patterns, goal-setting motivations, approach to and tolerance of risk, behavioral biases, and responses under pressure, as well as knowing each client’s likes and dislikes and life journey.

Measuring and discussing financial behavior is the first step for advisors to get to know their clients. And we already know that, for advisors to provide valuable advice, it is key that they understand clients and client goals.

Gone are the days of form filling. Advisors need in-depth, accurate information at their fingertips. Clients already understand that life requires them to be subjected to an array of technology experiences. They get it.

What many clients do not accept is poor service. For instance, feeling that they are not front and center of the relationship. Feeling they are a statistic. Feeling like the financial advice they are getting or the way they are getting it is generic or ill-matched to them.

When advisors start to deploy technology which delivers a great experience for their clients, then and only then will they gain a competitive edge and restore broken trust.

The use of application programming interfaces (APIs) is presenting a new and exciting range of possibilities to financial advisors. Essentially, APIs act as a sort of plug in, bringing a specific functionality to other, already up and running systems, so an advisor, group of advisors or small or large organization can add bells and whistles to a system without having to invent/reinvent their own.

Such an API can permit the flow of information between applications and give financial advisors the ability to, in this circumstance, easily access on a real-time basis client data, gain insights and offer innovative solutions tailored to the clients’ life plans while complying with regulatory requirements

Through the magic of APIs, “behavior tech” platforms can now be white-labeled and inserted inside organizations so that they can access scalable and easy-to-use online behavioral management solutions to know, engage and grow every client (and their advisor!).

APIs like this are not tomorrow’s solutions. They exist now, waiting only to be embraced and leveraged. This is the power – here and now – to use behavioral insights to create truly unique and robust experiences for advisors and clients. It engages clients in a way that demonstrates the degree to which advisors will go to enhance the financial planning experience – and the success they can have with and for a client.

Every financial advisor should be able to use interactive business intelligence tools to drill down into client information. In advance of every meeting or phone call the advisor should, at the click of a button, be able to deploy dashboards and personalized information to respond to client needs. This approach can and will create an experience tailored to individual clients’ needs.

Clients and advisors alike want “easy” and they’ve got it if the right API or behavior tech solution is deployed. Everything is right there on their mobile devices.

For the right financial advice get the relationship right

For The Right Financial Advice, Get The Relationship Right

This article first appeared on Nasdaq.
No two people’s financial situations are ever the same. Finding a financial advisor who really understands that and who can deliver truly tailored advice is getting progressively more difficult.

So, it is increasingly incumbent upon financial advisors to have a depth of behavioral insight in order to deliver a significant level of personalized advice. Some advisors have taken steps to obtain a range of behavioral finance tools to ensure they are meeting client needs.

But the use of scientifically based data gathering tools is only part of the solution. The core objective, and a regulatory requirement, is to put the client first. If financial advisors are proactive in demonstrating their absolute commitment to delivering individual client-based solutions, they’ll be demonstrably more successful, as reflected by client satisfaction, retention and referrals. Behaviorally smart financial advisors don’t wait for regulatory requirements to force them to seek out ways to more effectively understand client communication:

  • They learn how to communicate with clients who find money an emotive subject;
  • They know how to satisfy the client who wants to be presented with exciting opportunities;
  • They know how to talk to a risk taker who needs to put the brakes on;
  • They invest time and resources into holistically understanding client’s financial personalities; and
  • They learn the methods for revealing information, hidden below the surface, that is pertinent to client’s financial well-being.

Be the advisor about whom a potential client thinks, she could become my financial coach and mentor. Or, I believe this advisor is the guy with whom I can work for years that my family will rely on as they need financial advice and make life decisions.

Sadly, many clients don’t feel empowered to engage new advisors. Often this reluctance to change their advisor is simply because trust is at an all-time low. Therefore, better the devil you know holds.

A colleague’s insight

A recent conversation with a colleague is worth sharing:

Many years ago, I wanted to invest in an exciting start-up. Something about this?entrepreneur and his ideas excited me. My financial advisor wouldn’t even discuss the opportunity, referring to me as a novice in terms of investing and to the entrepreneur as a seven-day wonder. The advisor had no idea about me, my plans for my life and indeed I think saw me as an amateur.

As I am reminded of that incident many years ago, I wonder if the advisor (long since out of my life) remembers the conversation as he watches the multi-billion-dollar empire this young man went on to build.

All it would have taken for this story to have a different ending, was an advisor who understood that I dont take risks, but that I am very savvy when I see an opportunity, and that at that time I could well afford the amount I wished to invest. But that advisor had no idea how to communicate with me.

That is just one of the many anecdotes we hear.

Client-centric for the win

It’s time for advisors to approach their clients as though they were their financial advisory soulmate. Working toward matching clients with advisors, based on communication style and the understanding of behavioral biases and decision making, will build confidence for the client, and enhance relationships for the advisors. Such a customer-centric transformation – that is, putting the client first – builds trust and attracts more customers.

Not every organization can afford to invest in sophisticated technical solutions, but even the smallest of advisory firms can and should invest in a process that reveals client’s financial personality and communication style at a deeper level.

Restoring trust and faith in a battered and bruised financial sector starts with you. With putting people before numbers. With relationships.

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

markets-are-not-predictable-but-human-behavior-is

Markets Are Not Predictable, But Human Behavior Is

This article first appeared on Nasdaq.

Understanding how to uniquely manage each client during periods of market volatility is a major issue for advisory firms. So, when you have the capability to predict each client’s reactions in advance of market movements, communication is straightforward, understanding that markets are not predictable, but human behavior is. After all, mismanaged emotions destroy wealth.

In a down market, some cautious clients will panic about losses. On the other side, more extreme risk-takers will see it as an opportunity to buy. Prioritizing the management of clients based on market fear (or lack thereof) and providing corresponding key insights will develop more effective client relationships and retention.

Research demonstrates that markets cannot be predicted by advisors and investors. Instead, advisors should manage the behavioral biases of their clients. In fact, advisors are in an optimal position to do so.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself: Clients need to be part of the discovery process from the outset. This can only be achieved using highly targeted questions via an online discovery process, or verbally. Afterward, advisors can deliver advice based on the client’s goals, rather than the advisor’s perception or interpretation of client needs.

This leaves the advisor better able to align solutions and offerings to who the client is and what they are trying to achieve. It takes the advisors biases out of the conversation. Whether they are the personality biases or personal financial biases, the advice now becomes all about the client. Discovery upfront, as outlined here, delivers both a filtering and alignment that provides greater objectivity on the part of the client and advisor.

Emotional insight

Understanding and managing clients during market volatility is all about their emotional balance. If they are to achieve their goals, its important for the advisor to know how to stop them making silly decisions on their journey via emotion-based decisions or reactions to market movements.

This is where behavioral coaching and educating becomes such a big part of what advisors should be offering clients. Not every advisor, though, is going to have the skills necessary to coach clients in this way.

The use of a highly-validated discovery process that identifies and measures both inherent and learned behaviors will make advisors aware of clients who will react emotionally to triggers like disturbing media headlines or presidential tweets. Advisors with concrete insight can then best manage the client and their reactions for the best outcomes.

Having this insight on clients financial personalities delivers a more sophisticated set of tools into the hands of advisors.

Understanding the wiring and the whys

We humans have certain decision-making biases that are hard-wired early in life. These behavioral biases can be predicted, as they are inherently part of our DNA. The biases usually reveal themselves in times of higher market volatility, when a person is under more pressure or when a major life event takes place.

The key for investors is not to churn their accounts too much in times of volatility. For some advisors and investors whose DNA is wired to be fast-paced, overtrading will be a greater temptation.

As an investor, it’s important to know how much your account is actively managed. Active management can equate to overtrading and, in the end, could be costly or even destructive if not properly moderated.

The other bias to recognize is that investors have a much greater aversion to losses than gains. Those investors whose DNA is wired to be patient and risk-averse will feel the pain of losses much more; so, managing their emotions in times of volatility is crucial. These clients will need a portfolio that is very different from those that are higher risk-takers.

Advisors need to learn how to advise and communicate with each client uniquely in terms of their reaction to market volatility. Again, this is why advisors should consider using sophisticated, targeted questioning to gain insights into client behavior. Having predictive behavioral insight at the start of the client/advisor relationship is significant.

A customer-centric approach in all service industries is essential. But with the scrutiny and attention placed on the financial services sector, such customer focus becomes crucial to the reputation of the business, to client retention and to the overall success of the business. Further, it is a regulatory requirement.

Advice must now be tailored to the individual. One size does not fit all. Advisors who don’t get on board in terms of understanding the behaviors of their clients risk compromising their business and leaving themselves wide open to litigation.

Advisors no longer just need to know how they need to know why. Do you #KnowTheWhy of your client’s life and wealth creation goals?

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

are-we-hardwired-to-derail-our-own-investments

Are We Hardwired To Derail Our Own Investments?

This article first appeared on Nasdaq.

People don’t make rational decisions, including decisions about investing. The degree to which we make ludicrous choices depends on our DNA. (No, really; bear with me.) Decision making by both investors and advisors can be less reckless if we don’t understand more about individual behaviors and why we make the financial decisions we do. Are we hardwired to derail our own investments?

Factor into this mix emotion and a lack of financial education, and this further increases the likelihood that decision making can be faulty for both advisors and investors. Getting inside our brains to see what’s going on when we make decisions is not only doable, it’s also measurable.

As behavioral finance (think How and why we make the financial decisions we do) goes mainstream, investor behavior has become more accepted as the major influence on investment performance. If advisors have no read on how or why investors make certain decisions, mistakes will be made.

So how does one become what I would call Behaviorally Smart? According to its annual Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior, Dalbar – a financial services market research firm – says investment losses to individual investors due to their behavior is an average of 8 percent per year over the last 30 years.

And this is not just limited to the investor. Based on a study by Cabot Research, professional investment managers are leaving 1 percent to 3 percent a year on the table, which is significant when you realize the size of these large portfolios. So even the professionals who use sophisticated technology and extensive research make mental errors in decision making.

After all, they are human and must manage cognitive biases and emotions when under pressure. The more aware you are of yourself and what makes you successful and what causes failure, the better off you’re going to be financially and professionally.

FDNA

So, how can investors improve? There is no simple tonic to improved performance, as this requires wholesale behavioral change – a paradigm shift in how someone engages the world around them. The key, then, is understanding your unique financial personality. Among other things, this insight provides a greater level of self-awareness: Why do we repeat our mistakes?

Advisors and investors alike need to develop an investment process that provides a check yourself before you wreck yourself step to mitigate these blind spots.

Through more than 15 years of research, I have learned that easily identifiable behavioral traits lead to patterns of decision making that are very closely aligned with the structure of an investors portfolio. In other words, the combination of traits and patterns makes up your financial personality style. Your portfolio, therefore, mirrors who you are. In fact, investors should look at their portfolio as the composition of all their decisions and not just a series of market positions.

The reality is that some behavioral biases cost more than others. Based on Cabot Research, the top four ways the brain can wreck investment performance are:

  • The Endowment Effect – Holding winners too long. The investor falls in love with a winner and loses sight of the fact that its best days are gone. There is the fear of selling the position too early.
  • Risk Aversion – Selling young winners too early. The investor has fears about the future and does not want to take the bumps in the road as the stock increases in value.
  • Loss Aversion – Holding losers for too long. The investor is fearful of taking a loss and ends up with a portfolio full of losers.
  • Regret Aversion – Not adding to winners when they take off. This is an investor who is hesitant in their decision-making and backs out of building the stock position as it gains momentum.

Based on your history of decision-making, which of these patterns have cost you the most? And remember, there are many other behavioral biases, which, coupled with these, will further contribute to reduced performance. To help you on the journey of closing the investment performance gap, start with self-awareness of your behavioral traits.

For investors, this could be as simple as asking your advisor if he or she uses a validated behavioral insights tool that looks beyond risk-tolerance testing. For advisors, the time and money invested in adopting such a process can pay big dividends for you and your client, pun intended.

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

Why not complete your own complimentary profile and see which behavioral biases may affect your financial decision-making? Click here

advisors-are-you-fooled-by-your-own-bias

Advisors: Are You Fooled By Your Own Bias?

Pioneering research in the psychology of investing, now known as behavioral finance, by Nobel Peace Prize winners Daniel Khaneman and Amos Tversky, and other leading academics, has highlighted key investment behavior insights. These insights are all a dimension of a person’s financial personality.

Understanding a person’s financial personality, whether advisor or investor, informs the degree to which each is biased in their decision making and the way in which advice could more effectively be delivered.

There is a clear connection between these investment behaviors and natural behavior and identifiable traits. As each person, whether advisor or investor, is different, the extent to which each of these investment behaviors exists in any one person will be different depending on their strongest natural behavioral trait. Usually, each person will clearly exhibit several investment behaviors depending on their natural behavioral style.

DNA BehaviorWithout clear understanding of each other’s financial personality and life goals, advice will always be skewed from the advisor’s point of view and, similarly, from the way the investor receives the advice.

These 16 behaviors can be revealed and managed. See those here.

Everyone, whether advisor or investor, are all subject to various forms of behavioral bias that lead us away from rational decision making and, in this case, result in less-than-optimal investment and money management decisions. An honest, transparent and successful advisor-investor relationship is one in which both parties admit and own their biases, always working to manage them.

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

Why not complete your own complimentary profile and see which behavioral biases may affect your financial decision-making? Click here.