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The Behavior & Money Insights Company – An Origin Story

Today, DNA Behavior is known for its groundbreaking approach in managing client-advisor relationships. Through its 500+ insights, companies have succeeded in reshaping the way they deliver wealth management services. However, have you ever wondered how it all started? 

Chairman & Founder Hugh Massie recently sat down with Nikki Evans, our Chief Learning Officer to discuss the journey that led him to create the Behavior & Money Insights Company.  

A Reformed Accountant Turned Entrepreneur

After graduating from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia with an Accountancy and Economics degree, Hugh took a position in a large accounting firm so that he could get the best education and training possible. This was a path he never questioned up until that moment because everyone around him was doing the same. 

In the 10 years he spent working with Arthur Anderson as a Chartered Accountant, he gained experience in auditing and as a tax advisor covering a range of fields of expertise. The one thing that really impacted his view on the world was the opportunity he got to work in South East Asia for 4 years, in Singapore, and Thailand. As Hugh describes it “I think something happened to me there that was important”. 

Anyone who’s ever experienced working in a foreign country can attest that cultural shock can sometimes be challenging at first, but it inevitably shapes your personality and changes you in many ways. In Hugh’s case, working in the fast growing economies of Asia provided him with a lot of operating freedom in a less structured environment. This allowed his entrepreneurial thinking that already existed to start being more fully liberated. 

A Feeling of Lack of Purpose Led to DNA Behavior

The most asked question any CEO gets is “How did you start the company?”. Hugh is no exception. Over the years, he’s been asked time and time again how it all started and how he decided to build a behavior and money insights company. People usually expect an inspiring answer, details on the spark of genius that ignited this entrepreneurial journey.
For Hugh, it actually started with a career burnout: “Somewhere I lost my passion”. Hugh continues: “I had the sense that I had to go on the street with nothing to go to and figure it out, because I’m not going to figure it out sitting in the accounting firm and I need to go and try things to find out what would work. Although, I was knew clients wanted a customized experience in how they were dealt with by their professional advisors”.

At the age of 30, Hugh was working as a wealth mentor. He was helping his clients with their financial affairs as well as teaching them about themselves. That’s when the idea dawned on him. “People have these behavioral flips – Their risk appetites are not what they would say it was, under pressure people make all these emotional decisions”. That realization right there was the transformational moment for Hugh, where he clearly saw what DNA Behavior would be about.

A Community Waiting to be Built

The Behavioral Finance world may have been limited during the time Hugh Founded DNA Behavior, but the response was absolutely overwhelming. “For the most part, I’ve met very positive people that are supportive of me, developed me, given me lessons, some good, some bad, some tough, that have enabled me to grow”. 

Today, many financial institutions have successfully implemented the DNA Behavior approach and consider it to be a substantial advantage. Providing a stellar client experience which is personalized is the ultimate goal for each advisor, so when you understand your clients on a deeper level, they feel heard, supported, and prioritized. The best part of it all is that Hugh was able to build a community of financial professionals who found a supportive environment to guide them through it all. This has become more than just a company, this is a life mission.

A Mission Greater Than Money

“Part of the identity journey is to ensure people don’t define themselves by how much money they have, they define themselves with something that is much deeper inside them. That is a gift. If that has happened to make them a lot of money then great, or, will they in the future? Fantastic.”

Ultimately, the goal is that people fulfill their potential and make whatever wealth that comes from that, and in the process live a life of meaning. 

Money is what makes the world go round, it is very important, but it’s got its place, and it’s got to be well managed. That is not just invested, that is emotionally managed as well. We are in a great position to take people on that pathway to find out who they are, what their real talents are, get them to live that journey, and then to manage themselves along that journey. And hopefully, build great relationships, not have a life of regret. That is so important. 
“My work is going to be in that zone for quite a long time, as a business leader, helping people find that identity. Really trailblazing it, being that champion. As part of helping people trailblaze their identity I will be their champion and they can see – here is someone who did it.

Care to Join Our Mission?

DNA Behavior has been a growing community for over 20 years. We pride ourselves in the impact we’ve had on many financial institutions and organizations. In the future, we will continue striving to help more advisors build long-lasting relationships with their clients. If you’re interested in giving it a try, start our free trial to Financial DNA and unlock the power of behavior.

Financial DNA Empowering Female Voices

Earlier this year, I sat down with Danny Liberatore from The Wealth Enrichment Financial Group to discuss the impact Financial DNA has had on his practice, and how it transformed the way he works with his clients. 

Working with female investors

One of my biggest takeaways from our identity conversation was Danny’s approach in working with female investors. He mentioned that most of his clients are females and that Financial DNA insights have enabled him to foster meaningful relationships with them.

You see, female investors don’t want to be treated any differently than men, however, their communications styles are different. They want to be part of the process. They have a savviness for the intricacies of our work and appreciate the educational part of it all.

Danny Liberatore

Behavioral finance insights particularly come into play in this situation when you are working with male and female partners. Their dynamics unravel from day one, and you need to pay attention to their behaviors in order to understand them better and manage their biases.

Involve both in the conversation

Danny shared with me that most of the time, the women are different from their partners, in terms of behavior and responsiveness. 

It is no secret that the financial service industry has done a very poor job trying to understand women and genuinely helping them. What happens more often than not is that they are being ignored and their opinions are unsolicited or unappreciated. 

As a financial advisor, you need to be able to wear different hats when working with couples. When you make the effort of explaining things differently to your clients and accordingly to their behavioral styles, you get instant breakthroughs. 

Danny mentioned that he’s made it a habit to always address the wife first and disclose to the husband that while he might be addressing him later on separately, he doesn’t want him to feel ignored or unappreciated. He will ensure to bring the husband back into the conversation and keep her engaged.

The truth is, once you honestly explain your process, your clients instantly feel included. It not only puts them at ease, but it builds trust. And we all know that trust is a fundamental factor in advisor/client relationships. 

This is a common situation for FI’s to find themselves in. When the female is not the breadwinner or the creator of the wealth, you’ve got to make her even more involved, without leaving the male out either.

How it usually starts 

When meeting with a potential client for the first time, pay very close attention to the couple dynamics as they unravel before you. It is common for men to take on the lead role in a conversation with their advisor, especially at the beginning. 

However, if it gets to the point where the female’s opinion is not taken into consideration or is not solicited at all in the planning process, that should be a red flag for you. You need to make the effort to always keep them engaged and involve them in the conversation.

You can also look at it from a business perspective. Let’s say you are taking on this new client that has great assets and potential for revenue growth. If you strictly focus on working with the husband, when life happens and you find yourself in an intergenerational wealth transfer situation, what are your chances to still be the financial advisor for that family? 

Final thoughts..

When working with your clients, it might feel normal to engage the one partner that takes on the role of leader and simply overlook the other. The risk you are running there is to not only alienate one of the decision makers but also falling victim to your own status quo biases. Pay attention to your client’s dynamics, keep both of them engaged, and build what could potentially be a lifetime working relationship.

Take Fresh Look at Alignment of Career and Life Purpose

– First Published on Nasdaq –

Having a purpose in life that lines up with a chosen career is what many strive for and rarely achieve. Why is that?

Maybe it’s as simple as having allowed yourself to follow the career expectations of others, only to later find life experiences, wisdom, or an event (like a pandemic!) exposes cracks in the alignment between life purpose and chosen profession.

For many, the past year has caused them to take a hard look at their life purpose and ask the questions:

  • Why am I building wealth?
  • Is this my chosen career?
  • Why am I endeavoring to achieve the next promotion?
  • Why am I allowing life to hijack deeply held life goals and purpose?

Learning from the past

As I look back on my own journey, I often joke, saying I am a “reformed CPA,” but I seriously am. Having initially had a successful career as a chartered accountant in Sydney, Singapore and Thailand, and later in the financial services industry (running my own wealth management business), I always knew my career was more than about me conforming to a way of life.

That is, conforming to the script of have a good job, buy a house, invest and increase wealth. I think you get my point. But in reality, I always recognized something was missing.

My talents made me successful in my chosen careers but did not fulfill my passion, vision and values which I wanted to define and articulate in my life purpose.

I can’t say I was overly navel-gazing or looking for meaning in life; it was simply a deep belief that something more was going to be my career and purpose. The trouble was I didn’t know what.

Getting back to basics

I began to realize that if I wanted to discover my TIPS (talent, identity, purpose and significance) and get my career and life purpose aligned, I would have to do something about it myself. Hence the birth of DNA Behavior.

I recognized that using a behaviorally smart scientifically based discovery system I would be able to uncover areas of my TIPS that were not being recognized or used in my career – or toward my life purpose.

So, some 20+ years ago I founded the DNA Behavior business. It became clear to me that everyone should know and be able to share their unique “DNA style” with family, advisors, leaders, employees and clients. I knew that if everyone could share their unique style, the world would be a better place and careers would be chosen that lined up with living a quality life and inherent passions.

What I discovered and have spent the intervening years pursuing: My purpose and priorities lay in helping people the world over become more self-empowered through greater self-awareness. What I found is that I have a knack for discovering and making practical, unique behavioral insights, particularly in the still-new, still-underutilized field of behavioral finance. This is a much stronger calling for me than providing accounting and financial services, investments, and managing real estate.

The highly validated, scientifically based, structured approach to understanding behavioral insights for identifying talents, career paths and life purpose helped me discover my passion and now does the same for millions of people globally.

There is of course an irony – and a win-win – to the fact that my personal discovery and pursuit of that will enable the same for others. Of this I am doubly grateful.

And this is not a sales pitch; rather, it’s sharing an experience about discovering life purpose and making a career from that discovery.

Sometimes life intercedes

During the past year I have spent socially distant or remote time with countless people who are questioning many aspects of their lives. Now many are reviewing their career. Not because they have lost their job, but because they’ve had time to work from home with their family and have begun to “taste” a quality life.

They want to do life differently. They want to use technology to be able to have choices about where and when they work. Even more have commented on how successful conversations have become with their advisors as many financial advisors are themselves questioning their quality life.

One common theme in these conversations: It seems creating significant wealth is no longer their “true north,” not because they don’t want wealth but because they genuinely cannot find its purpose in their lives.

Wealth is great, but not at the sacrifice of life purpose. Why not have both?

Know yourself, then help clients do same

Discovering a life purpose that becomes a satisfying career needs to follow a well-defined approach that begins, not necessarily with qualifications, but with knowing self (talents, strengths and struggles). Focusing on those factors that reveal inherent behavior is crucial before setting personal life goals that enable you to take control of life in ways that optimize performance and happiness.

This approach to building a career based on life purpose is a strategy you can take to your clients as part of discussing financial planning and investment strategies, because many are searching for purpose and meaning. Even better if you lead the discussion with how you have rediscovered yourself, re-examined your goals and re-aligned key life facets like purpose and direction.

Your Firm Isn’t Ready for ESG – Prove Me Wrong

For years, the DNA team has been writing about how the world is moving to a place where everything is hyper-personalized for every customer in every interaction. Lately, firms have been approaching us for the most personalized investment service we have seen, ESG investing. Are we finally here? Is everything personalized yet? I think not.

Firstly, I love the personalized approach to ESG investing. The ability to customize services at scale and deliver unique investment experiences to each client will be beautiful. However, in my opinion, FIs are starting to segment clients in the wrong way. Most firms are focused on segmenting clients into ESG buckets before they really know them.

Does your firm know how each of your clients communicates? Make decisions? Learns? Gives? Evaluate investment performance? If you are relying on your advice team to know and remember each unique client, good luck. Better luck if you have high turnover or there are poor notes in your CRM.

Working in behavioral science for the last decade, I know the data demonstrates that each person is unique (seriously, there are 4 trillion possible combinations in Financial DNA). And from being a millennial, I know that each of my peers wants to be treated as they are unique. Is your firm really ready for this? Does your firm really have the ability to treat each person as unique?

A 3-Dimensional challenge for your firm, are you ready?

ESG investing adds a 3rd dimension to the investing picture. While we currently operate on 2 dimensions, most firms only do 1 of those well. The 3 dimensions: First, there is the obvious investing dimension (dealing with the performance and investment vehicles themselves)… most firms do this well. Second, there’s a human dimension (dealing with the market impulses of clients, building engagement with the FI or advisor, addressing client communication needs, and decision-making habits)… most firms do this poorly. Now, firms are adding this ESG investing dimension (layering on the environmental, social, and often times political values and beliefs to their investments.

I will explain this further with my two friends, Kelly and Mike.

Dimension 1: Investments
From an investment picture, Kelly and Mike bring equal parts to the table but have little investing experience, except their 401ks. Kelly recently had a windfall from her inheritance and Mike cashed out equity from the IPO at his company. Both plan to work until their mid-60s, so they have about 25 years left to generate wealth.

Dimension 2: The human dimension

Californian, born and raised. Kelly’s stickers on her Prius could tell anyone what she believes in and the causes she supports. You better believe she composts everything and even carbon offsets her vacations. Sound like someone you’d hang out with? Well, Kelly and I have many things in common, one of which is we are both cautious. As a third-party to Kelly, I see this everywhere. Her caution in her career, her clothes, and even in her 2011 car. She accounts for every dollar she earns and is perfectly content with living in her modest 2 bedroom, single-family home with Mike for the long haul.

As luck would have it, opposites attracted Kelly to her husband, Mike. While Mike and Kelly share many views on life, their values, and their love for the environment, they couldn’t be any more different from a behavioral perspective. Mike loves his Tesla, but in contrast to Kelly, primarily because of the 0-60 speed. Mike works in SAAS sales, not for the love for tech, but for the challenge. Mike seems to be in his prime at the end of the quarter where he is below his quota and the pressure is on. Mike loves taking risks for the reward.

Working at DNA, all of us get our own friends and family accounts, and believe me, they get used! Like all of my friends, I forced Kelly and Mike to take their Financial DNA discovery. Kelly is an Adapter, 15/100 risk profile, and a Group 2 “Ultra-Conservative” investor. Mike is an Influencer, 87/100 risk profile, and a Group 7- “Aggressive” investor.

Dimension 3: The ESG Dimension

Kelly and Mike both have a love for the environment. Kelly more so than Mike, but nonetheless, they have both agreed to do everything physically and financially possible in order to make a positive impact on climate change. From a financial perspective, can your firm manage this complex, 3-dimensional ESG scenario? The reality is, Kelly would be best suited to invest in stable (but eco-friendly) investments while Mike will be constantly benchmarking their portfolio against the S&P 500, looking for a win. How would you manage this situation?

From my behavioral finance lens, many firms are not ready to deal with the complexities of this third dimension, because they haven’t mastered the human element yet. Firms are trying to tackle a one-size-fits-most approach with ESG. The reality is that all clients are different, but most firms lack the behavioral finance data to tell them apart.

Prove me wrong. I’d love to hear how you would behaviorally manage Kelly and Mike and deliver them an ESG portfolio.

The Impact of Behavioral Insights

When Behavioral Differences Impact the Bottom Line

Conflicts in the workplace are nothing new. When handled appropriately, conflicts often produce some of the best work. But when communication exchanges become toxic and disruptive and lead to poor decision making – then it’s a real issue and needs to be addressed.

To those leaders who appreciate the importance of understanding how to manage behavioral differences – good for you; your business is probably flourishing. For leadership that has no understanding and, in my experience, very often even promotes conflict in the belief that competitiveness is healthy and pushes individuals to perform more effectively – you’re missing a business building opportunity.

Behavior differences not understood at best and left unmanaged at worst can inhibit performance, cause unnecessary conflict and will only deteriorate if left alone.

People before numbers

I’ve worked in the corporate and government world for many years and it always bothers me as a consultant when a CEO cites issues such as, teams not aligned, communication problems, incessant complaining to supervisors, lack of business progress and so on.

Business is all about people. Whether they are your customers or your staff. Most conflict within and involving people revolves around unfulfilled needs:

  • Decision making – I want to make them. I want you to make them.
  • Communication – I’m expressive and want to talk. Im reflective and don’t want to talk.
  • Structure – I like order. I’m a free spirit.
  • Trust – Approach me, I’m an open book. I’m suspicious of your motivation.
  • Opportunities – Let’s go for it. I play it safe.

If we have no insight into these basic differences we should not be surprised when there is conflict or that teams can’t work effectively together, worse still, when customers get frustrated and sales are lost.

There is no magic wand to resolve behavioral differences, but there is a significant behavioral insight tool that can reveal individual unique behaviors. Armed with this insight, leaders can use the data to prevent unproductive and negative behavior that leads to conflict.

Know thyself

Most CEOs are frustrated with unmanaged behavioral issues and tend to push those off to HR to deal with or call in a consultant, like me, to make the issues go away. In reality, the starting point for a CEO should not be flicking issues off to HR, but to invest in getting to know their own behavior. That is always my starting point.

It never ceases to amaze me how impressed C-suite members are when they invest 10 minutes to understand their own inherent behavior. Suddenly they are sharing insights with each other – they have significant a-ha moments – they get why colleagues behave or react the way they do. More importantly, there is a genuine willingness to get below the surface in terms of how best to work together, and they make comments such as:

  • Will you let me know when I say something that belittles you?
  • Let’s have coffee together and figure out a better way to run our departments.
  • I see now why all my detail frustrates you – I’ll cut to the bottom line.
  • I understand you need time to reflect and think things through – I get it now.

As a consultant called to sort out people messes, always make sure you engage the leadership in understanding their behavior first. It will make dealing with their company problems much more effective.

Reconciling the differences that will undoubtedly exist between leadership will work toward resolution of wider issues in the organization.

One of the secrets of dealing with workplace behavioral differences is to have a clear journey for each individual. It’s more than a high-level vision; it’s the vision for the individual and how their contribution fits into the whole. When inherent behaviors are known, designing this pathway is likely to bring greater results.

Leverage our know-how

We provide organizations with a plug-in solution, so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If you are thinking, we need to address the behavioral differences in our business, feel free to rely on my knowledge and experience, not to mention the knowledge and experience of all my colleagues and our tools.

You can deploy us and our ‘behavioral chip” – DNA Behavior’s API – within your organization and quickly begin solving significant relationship, productivity and decision-making challenges. Imagine: Validated, scalable, practical solutions. Real insights for real results in real time.

Knowing yourself is the single most important 10 minutes you can invest in yourself.
Complete the DNA Behavior Natural Discovery for no-cost and no-obligation. You’ll ultimately get a one-page infographic report with actionable insights. Now, imagine everyone within your organization gaining such insights. THAT’s the kind of bottom-line difference I’m touting.

(Far) beyond risk-tolerance questionnaires

Quick or Quality? How About Both? (And We’re Scalable!)

In looking to leverage human behavioral insights to solve business problems and tailor employee and client offerings, do you want a very few questions that grab some data points so you can just keep moving?

Or do you want a discovery profile questionnaire that achieves results like these?

  • Easy and quick to complete (Don’t have 10 minutes to garner data that will affect decisions and relationships for a lifetime? Quit reading now and let’s go have coffee and talk about your priorities).
  • 91% reliability.
  • Predicts long-term behaviors.
  • Removes situational bias – education, culture, gender, race, etc.
  • Removes emotions.
  • Removes faking.
  • Is non-judgmental.
  • Provides greater depth and breadth of insights – 64 traits and 200+ insights covering all areas (from communication, financial decision-making, setting goals, choosing your role, team building or leadership and advisor development.)
  • Immediately usable results.

Then complete our DNA Natural Behavior Discovery Process, which uses a forced-choice scoring model with 46 simple to understand, non-situational questions that reveal your greatest strengths and struggles.

Small orgs, big orgs – no worries

Even better, we have an enterprise solution so you can have these validated, practical, applicable and scalable insights without reinventing the wheel. Just plug the DNA API into your system.

We provide the behavioral chip that enables you to harvest and leverage people data already in and around your systems organization. That means: Real insights for real results in real time – to tailor financial and other advice; communications, sales and marketing; recruitment, match-for-role, retention and hiring; and just about anything else in which behavior, decision and productivity is crucial.

Quick and quit, results be damned

Or, don’t use a questionnaire structured like DNA Behavior’s, and risk the following outcomes:

  • Results changing all the time; this variation signals that you’re not getting lasting, reliable insights.
  • Taking longer to do and measuring fewer insights and doing so less accurately.
  • Harder to complete because of the difficulty in understanding questions. (One of the several reasons we emphasize that ours produces more reliable results that are not situational.)
  • Not culturally neutral, which is a problem in and of itself but especially so if you’re committed to an even, non-judgmental process and one that embraces diversity by being culture agnostic.

Traditional risk-tolerance questionnaires are a good example of an instrument that might be pretty quick and painless and may ultimately be useless. The time you do invest addresses just one metric, which may not be accurate in the long run. And such questionnaires are susceptible to emotions of the moment and situational bias.

What’s your ultimate goal?

There are endless aphorisms, memes and jokes about whether you want something fast or correct. With we humans it’s usually not an either/or proposition, but a balance of all of the best factors. We’ve been working on DNA’s behavior tech platform for 18 years. So, the 10 to 12 minutes you or your employee or team member or client spend on completing the DNA Natural Behavior Discovery Process will be robust, meaningful, reliable, practical and lasting.

Take a test drive: Complete a no-cost, no-obligation DNA Natural Behavior Discovery here.