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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.

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X-Factor: Discovery, Awareness, Then Leadership

First published on Nasdaq


I’ve been having what I call Identity Conversations with financial advisors, industry leaders and others. It has clarified for me – and for them – that the more advisors and leaders come to understand their own identity, the better they can guide others to make more effective decisions.

John Maxwell, an author and speaker on leadership, captured the essence of this: “I have to find myself before I can lead myself. I have to be self-aware before I can be situationally aware.”

He could have written that for me and the people I work with, because he sums up an exciting truth for those of us required to guide people in their decision-making, whether as financial advisors, industry leaders, parents or others: Becoming situationally aware is itself a journey.

Situational & self

“Situational awareness” involves knowing what is going on around you and with others at any given time. As a financial advisor, situational awareness relies on your ability to see, understand and analyze the life journey of your clients and the goals they want to achieve. Life is not linear; life and market events are taking place all the time, and recognition of that is essential if you are working with clients to build wealth that also achieves their objectives.

An advisor’s pre-prepared questions can’t reveal the essence of a client. Most people are presenting their best side and perhaps even what they believe is expected. Even with well-guided questions, financial advisors rarely get to know what makes clients tick at the deeper level. Add to that the fact that advisor bias (unconscious or conscious) or assumptions also come into play.

So, the starting place is not just getting the right “discovery” tool or method to uncover what you need to know about your clients. I firmly believe you can never have real success or be a significant advisor until you genuinely discover yourself. Only by discovering your own X-Factor – those talents and qualities that set you apart and make you uniquely you – can you genuinely advise, guide and help clients build wealth to achieve life goals built on an understanding of themselves.

The secret sauce of leadership

Knowing your X-Factor, which reflects your unique gifts as an advisor, is critical to understanding your identity. That understanding, and the sharing of it, is in turn critical to understanding your clients – and helping them understand themselves.

What special “secret sauce” do you have that sets you apart in the crowd from every other advisor? This is not about your “doing” in the role as an advisor but the essence of your being. The X-Factor is found by discovering where your talents (strengths) and passions combine to drive you toward doing something that is special and differentiated.

When individuals truly discover their identity, they realize the impact it has on every choice and, of particular importance to advisors and those they serve, decision-making. They become more secure in themselves, and that fosters clearer “vision” about themselves and those they serve.

Further, when advisors understand their own and that of their clients, they understand that identity is important for personal growth and business growth. And in many cases, a business’s identity and the success of the company is strongly correlated to that of the leader’s identity.

Living your identity

In this space I’ve written a lot in the past year about taking stock of life and checking in to consider the next “season” as we begin to return to normality. This time of enforced reflection has caused many, including me, to pause and rethink their life journey.

As a reformed accountant, it’s exciting to see how the Identity Journey has impacted many financial advisors. Given that 80% of human performance comes from living your identity, managing human differences, and recognizing the emotional impulses of decision-making, a number of those I interviewed shared with me how getting in touch with their own identity made them alert to situational awareness in financial planning.

Another important realization usually follows pretty quickly: To guide clients in their complex decision-making, they too needed to go back to basics to reveal their identity, discovering how this insight shapes their situation.

Discover, then share

In time we will all forget the experience of this past year. For one, never before have we had such an opportunity to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. To reflect and reinvent. That is, to re-assess and re-launch, with an awareness that benefits us and those around us. After all, many people search – especially now – for their place in the world and how they can live or operate with more significant meaning.

So, before you step back into whatever your new normal is going be, take a moment to ask yourself:

  • What is your future reality?
  • Who do you want to become?
  • How do you want to project yourself to others?
  • Where will your most significant impact be?
  • How are you going to stand out in the crowd?
  • Do you want a dramatic change in your life?
  • Do you want a sharp uplift in your life trajectory?

If you’re unsure of your place in the world, this process of considering your X-Factor is a great (re-)starting point. There are a number of ways to go about it, but I am understandably biased about an approach that begins with a behavioral discovery, next stepping into an identity interview.

I’m always happy to help others uncover such and will of course share my own identity interview and X-Factor “reveal.” After all, that transparency and sharing is the pivot point when the power you discover in yourself begins to help and influence others.

If you are discovering other ways to find and own your X-Factor, I’d love to hear about it.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Identity Conversation with Hugh – Behavioral Design Influencer

Whenever I think of a behavioral design influencer, my dear friend Deborah De Jong always comes to mind. With a passion for interior design, she took interest in human behavior early on in her career.

Deborah is a renowned interior designer, TV personality, business consultant, and the Founder and CEO of Emmanuel One Pty Ltd. We’ve known each other for 19 years, nearly since the start of my journey in human behavior.

Joining me from Sydney, Australia, in this Identity Conversation, we discuss the way she utilizes behavioral science to create a design plan that matches her clients’ personalities.

Crucial Stock Market Takeaways from COVID-19

This last year will forever be remembered by investors for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Global stocks suffered some of the quickest declines on record, and financial advisors around the world were faced with the daunting task of managing their client’s reactions to the pandemic.

If you had any discussions with your clients about Zoom (ZM), TESLA (TSLA) or, god forbid, Dogecoin, you could agree with me that there are more than a few behavioral finance lessons from the last year. In this blog post, we will cover the top 4 crucial takeaways financial advisors need to consider.

Determining Client’s Risk Behavior

Each individual has a level of comfort when it comes to taking risks, and your clients are no different. Accurately determining a client’s risk behavior canbe critical for long-term financial planning, especially during an unpredicted pandemic. When you know your client on a deeper level, you are able to create the ultimate investment portfolio. One that stands the test of time, market volatility, and global pandemics.

Evaluating Market Mood

Evaluating the current mood of the market is the most efficient way to stop your investors from making impulsive decisions that change investment positions at the wrong time. When faced with a global pandemic, the client’s inherent behaviors will take over. So if they have a tendency to make impulsive decisions, assessing the market conditions will enable you to predict such reactions and manage them. Investors typically have one of two reactions to market events. A reaction to market news they hear regarding movements of a particular index, and a reaction when they see their actual portfolio in their investment app. With the Market Mood API tool, you can measure both reactions; client-specific moods as well as moods powered by market indices.

Assessing Behavioral Biases

Each one of your clients has a set of biases that drives their decision-making process. They tend to be impulsive and lead to less optimal outcomes. Which begs the question, how can you manage your different clients’ emotions as the market changes? When it comes to the financial planning process, some clients tend to make financial decisions based on past experience and personal beliefs. Even though the goal is to make well-considered and forward-thinking decisions, our human bias inevitably gets in the way. The key is to assess their behavioral biases at the very early stages and build a portfolio structure accordingly.

Adjusting Client Communication

Client communication methods cannot be one-size-fits-all. Each investor client that you serve has preferred ways of communicating. When faced with pandemic-induced market disruption, communication is key to maintaining client relationships. Some financial advisors rely on email, others prefer in-person meetings. The truth is, similar to you, your clients have preferred communication. Being able to predict them will enhance their experience with you and develop a trusting relationship.

In conclusion

As the world resurfaces from the 2020 market disruption, now is the perfect time for you to reflect on what took place during the previous year and how your relationship with your clients has been affected. With that being said, one of our most effective tools that bridge the gap of understanding between you and your client’s behavior is our community’s power. Powered by Natural Behavior, Financial DNA pinpoints virtually every human habit: the way investors and financial advisors communicate, invest, work, and live. Start a free trial today, and find out which unique style you match with.

Advisor-Client Chemistry

Do you have the right clients? This is a very topical issue for many financial planners, particularly those who have already built a business to a reasonable level. Actually, it is as important as the client selecting the right advisor.

In the end there must be a mutual relationship with the parties comfortable with each other. The relationship cannot start out (but it often does) with the client simply having dollars in the bank account and some financial planning needs, and on the other side the client believing the advisor has the skills and the necessary integrity. In fact, these are all assumed to get to the point of the first meeting.

Our business is all about looking at the behavioral style of the clients and also the advisors. So, not unexpectedly, the approach we take is to match clients and advisors based on their behavioral style. This is very much an inside-out approach, however all great relationships start below the surface. Human behavior is at the core. The great thing is that the Financial DNA system measures natural behavior which means we can reliably predict the behavioral style of the advisor and client in terms of how that person will always be, particularly under pressure. I would say that our approach must still be blended with a number of other more traditional selection factors such as client size, service style, values, expertise, etc. that are mentioned in Bob’s article.

To help the advisor we have developed an Advisor/Client Compatibility Matrix. The matrix is a one page grid which matches profile styles based on the level of modification that will be required between advisor and client. To be clear, it does not say you cannot work with someone, but it does say who will be easier (green box on the matrix) based on less behavioral modification – this is where communication, chemistry, etc. is likely to be higher. Hence, this is where the relationship will be naturally more sustainable over a longer period with less stress. So if you are an advisor wanting to segment your client base a reliable starting point is now provided.

I do not necessarily advocate that you fire those clients who will require more behavioral modification (red box on the matrix). This will be a warning sign that you have to put more work into adapting to maintain the relationship. Although what you may wish to do is allocate these clients to a partner who is different to you or hire someone who is different to you to provide a complementary style. Many advisors have found this approach to be foundational for selecting their next hire. Or in how they deliver client service with a team-based approach. Hence, the planner may get the relationship started and then another person on the team steps in.

Are you interested in the value of your practice? Importantly for advisors, this approach also helps you to identify to whom you sell your business. The sustainability of the relationships and hence the revenue is critical to business value.

When Clients Self-Sabotage Their Investments

When Clients Self-Sabotage Their Investments

This article first appeared on Nasdaq.

Since the global financial crisis and recession, clients are driving the industry in ways never thought possible (or appropriate).

Investor fears, lack of confidence and market uncertainty are provoking clients to demand better and more personalized advice from advisors. In this new client-led environment, advisors are struggling to understand how to navigate clients’ emotions, inconsistent thoughts and biases, while remaining in control of the advisory process. The relationship becomes further strained when the client presents as a know-it-all, bent on self-sabotaging.

Much is written about the role of the advisor and their behavior, but less about clients who don’t seek advice, but, rather, instruct advisors, perhaps to their own peril.

If the role of a financial advisor is, and should be, to advise, then what approach can they take to manage clients who know everything and think it is they who are the experts? Likewise, what to do when clients repeat mistakes and don’t want to learn from them?

Clients with this self-sabotaging approach to their investments are often unwilling to listen, are not open to new ideas or collaboration, and believe their opinions are the only ones that matter. As an advisor, these client traits may ring true for you.

Unfortunately, all advisors will experience such clients at some point. The key is knowing how to manage it in a way that provides a win/win solution to the client’s wealth creation options and maintains a healthy advisor/client relationship. Here are a few techniques to apply and to identify and challenge the self-sabotaging behavior of clients:

  1. Listen empathetically; remember the clients’ approach could stem from a lack of confidence around money, which to many is an emotive subject.
  2. Don’t let your frustration show; this is a client, not an adversary. Acknowledge what they are saying, as this engages and keeps them connected into the conversation.
  3. Remember, you are the financial expert, so get your facts straight, but be willing to listen to their investment suggestions and demonstrate your openness by offering to research on their behalf.
  4. Don’t allow the conversation to get away from you. Stay calm and focused. Most importantly, ask questions. Investors tend to get agitated by market volatility, perhaps unaware just how normal it is. The power of targeted questions can unravel some of this self-sabotaging behavior.

These techniques are more powerful when advisors have a level of information in advance of client meetings, as they can be tailored to each client’s uniqueness. Not only can financial personality be revealed, but perhaps more importantly, a guide to individually crafted questions is available to advisors so they can manage meetings based on revealed behavior.

Increasingly, the financial industry is turning to scientifically-based data gathering to prepare advisors, in advance of client meetings. Not only does this insight identify self-sabotaging behavior and provide direction on how best to manage it – it also delivers insight into:

  • Bias that can get in the way of investment strategy.
  • How to place clients more effectively at the center of the planning process.
  • Planning risks triggered by self-sabotaging behavior.
  • Issues, often hidden below the surface, that drive imperfect decision-making.
  • Risk propensity and risk tolerance that needs to be known and managed.
  • Whether the client sees their advisor as a financial coach and wants the relationship to be collaborative or Wants to delegate their financial decision making to the advisor and simply be kept informed.

Advisors who invest in scientifically based client discovery processes, understand that self-sabotaging behavior can come in many forms and that managing it must be approached on an individual basis.

Next time we’ll talk about things advisors need to know to better identify and assist this type of client, including how client behavioral insights empower advisors. In the meantime why not try our complimentary DNA Behavior Natural Discovery here.