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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.

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.

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

Diversity and Inclusion Make Teams Great

Is diversity and inclusion (DEI) in organizations and teams just the latest HR craze? Or maybe just a nod to equality compliance?

Neither. D&I, when introduced appropriately, mines the rich and often untapped talent within an organization. In fact, understanding what D&I means when implemented within a business can be the change that takes an organization from mediocrity to greatness.

Applied to teams, D&I opens doors to innovation, experience, creativity and an unmatched depth of knowledge. But – and it’s a big but – a multifaceted D&I strategy, if not handled appropriately, can lead to chaos and confusion.

The key is to tap into the inherent behaviors and biases of individuals. A highly-validated behavioral discovery process (think a quick-but-thorough assessment tool for every team player) will deliver this insight quickly, accurately and with comprehensive reports that cover every aspect of an individual’s inherent workplace and life behavior.

Such a process provides insight into hidden abilities, revealing behaviors below the surface that, if not managed, might result in disruptive behavior that could unsettle the team. It will highlight communication styles, which helps build a more engaged and productive workforce. Further, the process delivers a culture of openness, mutual respect and trust in the business environment that should satisfy any cultural or legal requirement.

Be mindful that D&I isn’t just about ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other such factors; its also about the behaviors that drive performance and reveal (and channel) such behaviors, biases and communication styles to foster successful team outcomes.

Harnessing these differences without the use of a behavioral insight tool can be challenging, if not impossible. People with different backgrounds bring unique information and experiences to tasks. They also bring a significant range of communication styles, decision-making approaches, and thought processes.

In any team, there will be those who passionately and tenaciously bring a vision to completion. Others will be spontaneous, creative and challenge conventional ideas. And there will be those whose experiences and behaviors cross-pollinate, bringing unique perspectives and approaches to work in different functional areas.

Plus, its good business practice to embrace diversity and inclusion: Complex and challenging issues are more likely to be resolved when a team includes a range of talents, thought processes and behaviors.

Dr. David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute and Summit, and Dr. Heidi Grant, a social psychologist, note in the Harvard Business Review that, striving to increase workplace diversity is not an empty slogan – it is a good business decision. A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to have returns above the industry mean.

Teams formed based on diversity and inclusion that are behaviorally aware, behaviorally smart and which include a range of different skills, are more likely to examine facts, consider a range of options and opinions, and remain objective. They will challenge each other professionally, without causing offense or disconnect. Biases will be openly discussed and resolved. Counterproductive thinking will be constructively argued to find mutually beneficial solutions. All of this leads to more effective decision making and organizational and business improvement.

As an example, Bain and Co. research shows that decision-making effectiveness is 95 percent correlated with financial performance.

Still, diversity and inclusion cannot be a one-off initiative. You should incorporate D&I at the hiring stage, and it’s a continuing work in progress, made more effective by the introduction of tools that reveal hidden behaviors and communication styles. D&I evolves, so your approach should too.?Diversity and inclusion make teams great and inclusion will set your organization apart from your competitors and improve your bottom line.

Using Behavioral Insights To Survive – And Thrive? – At Thanksgiving

Millions of American families come together (either in person or virtually) to enjoy Thanksgiving. But whether it is Thanksgiving or any other event, bringing people together does not necessarily equal a fun time. Why is that?

Its simple: We are all behaviorally different. At a time when family should enjoy each other around a splendid table, there is a potential for long-hidden conflicts, resentments and judgments to surface. Even if the family agrees that certain topics are banned from the gathering, that doesn’t mean that they don’t raise their head in some way.

Family coming together for Thanksgiving celebration should be able to avoid stress and conflict. But here’s a thought: Why don’t families work on their relationships? Why don’t they care sufficiently about family dynamics to try to understand and manage behavioral differences?

It’s a conundrum. Most people sitting around your table will likely invest time and resources into understanding workplace relationships. The point being to ensure everyone works effectively together to produce great workplace results.

Why then wouldn’t the same investment of time and resources be appropriate for families?

Here at DNA Behavior, we are often faced with this dilemma when advising families around their finances. This is a complex time for families. Generations have different ideas about how best to disburse family wealth. It becomes even more complex when each family member has a different approach to money.

Family is the most important group in society and yet it can be the greatest source of conflict and disagreement. Taking time to build healthy relationships within the family through understanding communication and behavioral styles does benefit each individual member in all walks of life.

So, here are five thoughts to navigate family struggles during this holiday season:
1. All families have elements of behavior that challenge us. Think of a particular family member whose behavior is challenging and then list at least three things about that person that you value. Then use these key strengths to build a relationship with them.
2. Make a commitment to understand your own communication and behavioral style and use that knowledge to better recognize how best to communicate with other family members.
3. If you are behaviorally engaged with your family members you will focus on the issue when conflict arises (and not the person).
4. Regardless of your communication or behavioral style, everyone reacts well to appreciation. Consider how often you express this to family members. A word of appreciation and acknowledgement of their value to the family can change the dynamic in a room.
5. Make a point of spending time with a family member that you don’t know very well. Focus your communication on them. Be interested in what they have to say; remember their conversation may not stimulate you, but the fact that you made time for them and listened could be the highlight of their holiday season. (Or may at least give them new insight into you.)

Thanksgiving should be a time to make wonderful memories, and it often only takes one family member to change the environment either for good or not. How about this Holiday Season you make the commitment to be the one to be behaviorally smart and help navigate everyone through to a Thanksgiving to remember?

The takeaway from this is that when a crisis does hit the family, they will be able to unite and draw strength and support from one another. Here’s where to start. Head over to https://dnabehavior.com/start-a-free-trial/ and complete your DNA Behavior Natural Behavior Discovery.

Then forward this article to everyone invited to your Thanksgiving celebration so they can complete their discovery. Then let behavioral insights be the fun topic around the dinner table. Who knows? They may even become one of the things some people are most thankful for this year!

The Productivity Pitfalls of Working from Home in the COVID-19 Era

By now, and almost 9 months into this global pandemic, your employees have probably gotten quite accustomed to the working from home set up. Whether they live alone, with a partner, or with kids, despite how unusual this has been, they’ve been working from home long enough to have developed some sort of work routine.  

Even though we can all attest to the benefits of a consistent work routine, can the same be said about productivity levels? Granted you’ve been doing all the right things with daily conference calls, proactive communication, and constantly checking on your team, how much has this global pandemic affected their productivity? And how can you as a leader accelerate your team’s productivity as the world is still navigating these uncharted territories?

Understanding your team’s environment

Before you start drafting leadership strategies to win over this productivity pitfall, know your people and their environment. What do we mean by that?

Your team who’s been working from home for months now is subject to different factors in their environment that may be causing this productivity halt. They’ve been deprived of their office space, have most likely converted a dining table into a working desk, and some of them are managing their kids at the same time.

In addition, you need to know your team members at a much deeper level. You may not be in control of their home working environment, but you have the ability to use and apply behavioral insights to get their productivity to climb again. You see, every person has a strong behavioral trait that can be leveraged to boost productivity, understanding is the key to success.

Consider a scientific approach

In-person collaboration is necessary for creativity and innovation. It also enables you as a leader to better understand your team, what drives them, what motivates them, and what kills their productivity.

When we first developed our DNA Behavior Natural Discovery services, our purpose has always been to guide people to make behaviorally SMART decisions based on our 500+ behavioral insights that we’ve accumulated over the years. However, in today’s COVID-19 era, you might think that investing in our natural discovery services will lack efficiency because we wouldn’t be able to physically be in your offices and interact with your team.

Well, let us start by clarifying that the accuracy of our behavioral natural discovery has less to do with in-person collaboration and more with scientifically based data gathering. Our natural behavior discovery process has been completed in 123+ countries and in 11 languages and maintains an overall 91% reliability. It is a proven method and has the potential to not only spike your team’s productivity but also transform your business.

What can you do today?

In a time of uncertainty, we can all at least agree that this will not last and that there will come a time where your team won’t have to work from home anymore. If productivity is a concern for you today, do not wait until that time comes to address it. You need to start right now.

You see, as a leader, your duties are quite similar to those of a matchmaker. You take a person with their scientifically discovered talents and behaviors and match them with the right tasks and responsibilities. The right match empowers the person and inspires them to work harder and achieve higher levels of productivity.

Sounds about right, doesn’t it?

If you are ready to invest in profiling the behavioral styles of your team members, schedule a consultation today Lisa and let us help you take the guess out of the equation and build your team up for success.