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5 Things to Know About Behavioral Finance

To be able to fully understand an investor’s decision-making process, financial advisors need to equip themselves with the knowledge, skills, and understanding of Behavioral Finance.

When taken right back to the bare bones of it all, a human being’s most basic natural instincts are based on emotions and psychological reactions triggered by a variety of events. When it comes to making investment decisions, these natural reactions are brought into this as well.

A second way that humans make decisions is through conscious thinking. Now, these behaviors are slightly different from survival behaviors because they are learned as a result of experience, and so people are able to adapt to changes in their environment. 

These natural instincts as well as the learned behaviors, all carry across into the financial decision-making actions that people act upon.

 1. What is Behavioral Finance?  

Behavior Finance is essentially understanding the underlying psychology of financial decision-making. It combines cognitive psychology with economics and finance. 

The objectives of Behavioral Finance are to understand why individuals make certain investment decisions.

For example:

  • Emotions are responsible for our quick assessments that influence financial decision-making. Positive emotions lead to more risk-taking, optimism, and in addition, buying decisions are made faster. Investors are well aware of the roller coaster of emotions they go through including hope, excitement, euphoria, fear, despair, regret, and sadness.
  • Another example is Herd Mentality. Herd Mentality is when a person feels pressured into making a decision just to conform with the largest crowd and their rationale behind it is that ‘so many people are doing it, it must be right.’ The dotcom bubble is a perfect example of this. Between 1995 and 2000, investors were backing internet-based startups hoping that they would soon make a profit. 

2. We all have biases

We all have Behavioral Biases which are irrational beliefs or behaviors that can unconsciously influence our decision-making, and stray us from rational decision-making.

However, our biases lead us to make less than optimal decisions.

The Behavioral Biases embedded in humans are responsible for irrational decisions that result in poor financial or insurance investment. We need to be made aware of our personal biases and try not to let them influence our financial decision-making. 

As Hugh Massie, our CEO and Behavioral Strategist explains, we focus on 16 Behavioral Biases that affect people’s financial decision-making. Once you can identify and understand your top two or three biases, you can become a better decision-maker, especially when under pressure.

3. Spending patterns are written all over us

Behavioral Finance is the answer for advisors who want to learn more about investors and how they intend to spend their money.

It has typically been a problem that advisors haven’t had enough information and insight into their clients’ spending patterns and as such, could only create financial plans without truly understanding what people planned on investing in or saving up long-term.

4. You can’t spell “behavior” without “risk” in it

By now, as an advisor, you should be able to understand that a person’s behavior is intrinsically coupled with the amount of risk they are willing to take. To be able to help your investors experience long-term financial success, determining their risk factor will play a major role in determining their strategy.

When you choose to work with us, you will benefit from our Financial DNA reports that provide a step-by-step approach to determining the risk behavior of clients, couples, and advisors.

You see, every single person has a Risk Behavior number ranging from 0 to 100, and it’s based on their Risk Tolerance and Risk Propensity. A higher score means they are more likely to take risks. The score is normally distributed with an average of 50 and a standard deviation of 10.

5. Financial DNA takes the guesswork out of investing

When you work with us, we help you build a system to understand your clients, where you will be able to connect with them, and customize their experiences.

By understanding your client you will be able to communicate with them in a more relatable manner; you will to know and understand their risk behaviors and spending patterns and it will be easier to understand and determine their financial goals. 

Our Financial DNA API sets us apart because it measures 500+ behavioral insights and will be a way to add a human element to your data. This is done with details on how people communicate, invest, work and live their life.

In Conclusion

At Financial DNA, we have years of experience to help you better understand your clients. If you are interested in our Financial DNA investor experience, basic Financial DNA reports, and 1:1 onboard coaching, start a free trial today.

Creating Wealth Starts With Financial Health

Our behavioral tendencies affect all aspects of our lives, especially our financial decision-making process. Managing money can be a stressful endeavor at times. The best way to ensure you’re making the right financial decisions is to start by better understanding your innate behavior and how you cope with pressure.

Amongst the many financial literacy resources available to the public, the FinWizdom podcast is one of our personal favorites. In the latest episode, podcast host Joel discusses ways to improve our financial wisdom through behavioral insights. Such a great listen!

ESG Investing: A Match for Post-Pandemic Outlook

– First Published on Nasdaq –

Interest in ESG investing has risen significantly in recent years. So, what is it?

ESG represents Environmental, Social and (Corporate) Governance factors as a measure of sustainability and social impact of an investment. It’s intended as another “lens” investors and advisors may want to use, alongside, not usurping, financial factors.

For years, ESG issues were a secondary concern for investors. It was often seen as “alternative” or nice to have but not mainstream. Sometimes not even taken seriously. Increasingly, clients are initiating ESG conversations.

One of the reasons may be that ESG investing has been shown to potentially present the greatest opportunity for portfolios. No longer an esoteric offering, financial advisors could well fall behind and lose clients if they fail to identify what issues are important to clients and help them build their portfolio in a way that reflects their values.

Add to that the fact that people have been very reflective during the pandemic; thus, many are beginning to see how various aspects of their lives – including their investments – line up with their values. ESG investments may be one of the answers for which they are searching.

Leverage conversation, technology

Many advisors are accustomed to having conventional conversations with their clients, without knowing those clients at a deeper level. Don’t be tentative or judgmental: Have the conversations to establish if and where clients fit in terms of ESG investing. Some will have base knowledge of the topic; others will appreciate a succinct ESG tutorial.

Advisors may not even realize that some of their clients are already researching companies’ records on environmental sustainability, social responsibility and governance (think transparency and accountability). Other clients may not know ESG investing is not just a nice-to-have approach, but can be a genuine, productive metric of investment potential and returns.

How can technology and data facilitate these conversations? Tech and data provide advisors and analysts with information about companies worthy of investment. It delivers data to advisors based on verified performance, demonstrating that companies worthy of investment are genuinely ESG compliant and are not just one of the in-name-only players.

Better still, tech and data can help advisors and even investors themselves understand the decision-making behaviors of investors. Especially as we come out of pandemic lockdown, in which everyone is increasingly comfortable with remote interactions, advisors need to have behavioral insights at their fingertips. As we all work “leaner,” insights provide an edge for advisors and firms committed to rethink and reshape how they deliver wealth management advice in our rapidly changing world.

Broaching ESG option

The real challenge for many financial advisors is that they aren’t sure how to have ESG conversations with clients. Many might feel asking about a person’s commitment, or not, to environmental and social issues is fraught with landmines. And, if advisors have not done their homework, they could be left flat footed as they genuinely do not know which companies are worthy of ESG investing.

So, how can advisors avoid the potential pitfalls of discussing ESG with clients? Like so many life conversations, such a discussion flows best when each contributor to the exchange understands their inherent behavior. (Again, with tech and data informing both the advisor and client perspectives and their “take” on each other.)

Communication style

An advisor whose style is to converse with authority and who has a strong drive to reach goals and deliver results, may suggest investment opportunities in industries compliant with ESG, where returns are likely to be significant…but they also may fail to “hear” their client.

A colleague recently shared the story of an interaction he had with a former advisor: When the colleague-client noted to his advisor that he did not want to invest in certain types of companies (decidedly not ESG ones and which differed from his core values), the advisor responded, “Well, I guess you are not interested in returns.”

Not only is that untrue of most ESG investments, that kind of response shuts down communication, damages the relationship and likely negatively affects success for both advisor and client. Having tech- and data-driven behavioral insights in hand could have changed the trajectory of things for both client and advisor.

On the flip, a client who is reflective and needs time to research and consider options and who would prefer to invest in a low-return investment but with a business who has a greater commitment to ESG, could feel pressured and withdraw from the conversation. So, again, understanding a client’s innate approach and reactions to stress and money decisions, as well as how they best communicate and are communicated to, could have brought alignment, understanding and, most importantly, productive communication to this scenario.

The time for ESG is now

With “behaviorally smart” tech and data integrated into their other systems, an advisor can, at the touch of a button, have real time information in front of them to understand client behavior, bias, and decision-making and communication style. This enables a higher level of advisor-client compatibility – and that’s the road to success.

Likewise, behavioral data gathering tools deliver practical insights so advisors can understand which clients they have significant behavioral differences with. It also would offer insights into how best to manage the differences. Ex: How and when do I communicate with this client to maximize outcomes for all parties involved?

In all communication exchanges, adapting behavior to relate to another person requires concentrating more on a level of self-awareness. There is no doubt ESG investing is delivering a huge shift in emphasis to financial markets and curious investors.

In a more reflective, post-pandemic world, more investors are looking to be part of global environmental and social solutions, working when they can with organizations that get things right on governance. These investors expect their advisors to be on top of their game in terms of understanding what they the client are trying to achieve. Knowing how to have the corresponding dialogue with them on ESG issues creates a win-win.

Financial services businesses that invest in tech stack solutions that provide tools to support ESG investing will be significantly more successful than their competitors. Not only will they be known for the proactive, positive impact they are having on society, they will undoubtedly enhance their organization’s long-term financial value and build client wealth in line with client wishes and, by nature, the greater good.

kim curtis identity interview

Identity Conversation with Hugh – Facilitator of Difficult Life Conversations

Have you ever wondered why smart people make bad investment mistakes? Or how can you work towards reaching financial independence?

In this identity interview, Hugh sits down with Kim Curtis. She is a personal finance expert, author of “Money Secrets” and Founder and CEO of The Wealth Legacy Institute, Inc.

With her rich background in negotiation and mediation, as well as legal and extensive financial education, she offers successful individuals and families a multi-disciplined approach to wealth management, investment management, and family dynamics.

Kim Curtis has been using our Wealth Mentoring Package. With 93.6% wealth management being about behavioral management, Kim has succeeded in leveraging the power of behavioral insights to facilitate life conversations with her clients. If you’re interested to learn more, start our 14-day free trial and see for yourself.

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.

Are You Dehumanizing Advisor-Client Relationships?

– First Published on Nasdaq –

The phrase Artificial Intelligence (AI) was likely first used by computer pioneer John McCarthy in 1956 at a Dartmouth College conference. And the concept of AI was even on the minds of classical philosophers as they delved into human thought processes.

Today we usually think of AI as computer systems mimicking human behaviors. But do they?

Many such computers are part of business efficiency and there is certainly a place for them. It is, however, important to understand that such systems, introduced in the name of efficiency and economy, often dehumanize the organization and the resulting service provided.

AI and API, but also y-o-u

People are unique, they respond in different ways and they are diverse. Financial advisors and other professionals must have the insight to understand that people – their client-investors and others – have strengths, struggles, biases and indeed breaking points that differ from person to person and situation to situation.

And even the smartest, most experienced advisors and clients only have so much insight, as our perceptive powers often cannot “see” or be aware of innate behaviors. Those go-to behaviors we all have and of which we may not even be aware…that surface naturally, often in times of stress or decision making.

So, just as behaviorally smart advisors understand the limitations of AI, they also understand their own limits of insight. But how to bolster human insight to best serve clients?

Whether intervention comes in the form of understanding emotional reactions to market movement, knowing when a simple call can head off a foolish decision about to be made or something else, advisors need to have significant amounts of insight into their clients in order to offer effective, consistent professional service.

But wouldn’t it be interesting to have both? A machine approach that not only gathered data and offered a range of financial insight, but also revealed human performance, emotions, bias and reactions and prompted the advisor when a client’s behavior (especially decision making) needs addressing?

A personality API (application program interface – think of a “plug in” for existing tech systems, then think of it providing personality insights) can give your data a human element, measuring behavioral insights covering virtually every human habit.

Roberta Smith on line one…

Picture this: You get a phone call from Roberta Smith, who wants to sell a significant stock. This is a big change and you don’t want her to act hastily. You need more information – and insight – regarding what’s driving this decision.

As you access her data on your system, compliments of that handy-dandy personality API, you see that she has a bias toward loss aversion. Not only that, but the behavioral data you have on your API reveals a range of different dimensions of Roberta’s natural style for making life and financial decisions, including her risk-taking behavior.

With the assist from your personality API in hand, you not only quickly access information about Roberta’s biases, but also her goals, spending patterns, risk stance and much more. Such a behavioral management tool gives you insights Roberta may not even have about herself.

Remember, your API is helping delve into innate client behavior, “farmed” when someone like Roberta takes a quick discovery at the very beginning of your initial work together. It may go without saying but is always worth repeating: AI is built on data, and part of the data populating a personality API would include Roberta’s input from her discovery tool.

Armed with client-specific human behavioral insights especially focused on finances and financial decision making, the advisor can safely continue the conversation with Roberta, knowing what’s driving today’s call. You can confidently – insights in hand – and in a tailored manner – because your insights also tell you how best to communicate with Roberta – steer her away from making decisions that will adversely impact her portfolio and life goals.

And this is no secret information, surreptitiously used. After all, you’re not manipulating Roberta, but creating a win-win. Back when a client like Roberta completed the discovery, you would have had a robust discussion around the added advantage you (and she) has by adding “behavior tech” to your other tech and tools.

Human and, not human or

There is no need to dehumanize relationships. AI has a significant place in the financial advisory business, but it must be partnered with behavioral data gathering and linked with API for instant access.

After all, AI and APIs are not replacing you. Rather, they are helping you take clients like Roberta to next-level, best-in-class advisory services.