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When New Information Changes Perspective

Some twenty-four hours ago, the state government sent our little haven by the ocean into Covid lockdown. We had to get back to our homes with only a few hours’ notice, ensure the fridge was full, and generally watch as our comfy, covid free world imploded.  

No longer, for the foreseeable future, could we sit in the village coffee shop engaging in conversations about other states not being able to cope with the lockdown. No longer could we gloss over the shattered lives due to businesses closing, never to open again.   

Suddenly, it was us. Then, it was our little shops, our little local livelihoods with closed signs at the window.  

I began to realize how perspective about what was happening changed. We saw the issues from a whole different vantage point. What was evident as we called each other was the significantly new attitude now being adopted, not just to our neighbor states but also to our village and the businesses, schools, churches, and all gatherings suddenly in lockdown. 

I’ve been thinking a great deal recently about seeing things differently. My world is all about understanding behaviors, but something is changing. The world and individuals have taken on levels of stress like never before in many of our lifetimes. I notice how emotion is driving significant decisions. I’ve seen a level of fear in conversations. Comments such as – when this is all over, what will the economy look like? Will I have enough savings or retirement income to ride out a financial crash? Will I lose my home? 

If I’ve learned anything about understanding behaviors over many years, It’s that when we understand and can manage our behaviors, it rationalizes our perspective, it frees up the mind to make calmer, more effective, less emotional decisions. 

Let me give you an example using a group of friends I know well. Names have been changed! 

In the face of this current lockdown:

David is an influencer. As the word suggests, he influences; he wants/needs to engage with people. Unfortunately, right now, he is crawling up the walls of his apartment. He is desperately trying to build a range of new businesses, calling friends to get their opinions, making decisions from the most stressful standpoints. Finally, after understanding his behavior (yes, I managed to get him to complete a DNA Behavior Discovery process), he can see that he is creating messy chaos and needs to breathe and start looking at this situation from a different perspective.

Jackie, on the other hand, is a thinker. Very analytical and logical, an absolute rock to have around as she keeps us all accountable by asking endless questions of our little group. Her perspective and counsel are to consolidate, calm down, move forward using rational fact-based decision making. Lockdown has given Jackie a whole new perspective. Firstly the speed at which we were told to go to our homes, no research, no actual planning, lack of organization, and all of us looking to her to ensure systems in place for the business continued to function correctly remotely. Jackie found herself in a difficult position. Again, Jackie completed the DNA Behavior discovery.

Elizabeth is strategic. She asked to complete the DNA Behavior discovery. It confirmed she is a visionary, structured, and takes the lead whenever possible. We all tend to look to her to make the tough calls. To make quick, confident decisions. She is always able to see and minimize the risks. But something changed recently. Perspective shifted. Losing control over the work environment caused her concern. Strategically she could easily find solutions to the lockdown issue, but now the authority to implement them was gone. 

Then there’s me, Vicki – DNA Behavior discovery process nails me to a tee. I am a facilitator, balanced, harmonious, discerning. I need the what-ifs answered. I pull back from all (even reasonable) spending in case something happens to the economy. I like to take time to make decisions, and above all else, I rely on the skills and stability of my colleagues to keep the ship steady. So from my perspective, everything is a bit shaky.

But heh, I’m a facilitator, which means I bring about outcomes by providing indirect assistance and guidance. I keep communication flowing and encourage and change the energy in the zoom room.

And that’s what I did. I ran a DNA Behavior team report for this little group. It showed the strength, pressure points, communication style, bias, and decision-making approach of our team, and so much more. We got together for an online meeting, and I used this information to change our collective perspective. I encouraged them to keep the issue, that is, in lockdown because of Covid, in focus. 

This ‘issue’ is not our fault, not within our power to change the current situation but most definitely within our control to change our perspective in dealing with it. We spent time reviewing our DNA Behavior reports and acknowledging where our pressure points were and how to manage them. We further realized (almost scarily) how fear can take a successful business off course, not because of the shutdown but because of the individual’s behavior and perspective.

We challenged each other’s decision-making. As a result, we are determined to use our inherent behavior and skills to see things differently and ride out this storm without damaging ourselves or the business.

We decided not to waste energy on the lockdown itself because we all had very different responses to that, but to intentionally use our skills to bend but not break in the season we currently face.

If you find yourself in a similar place – you have my sympathy, but do what we did. Head over to DNA Behavior.com and hit the free trial button. You may well find the new information changes your perspective as it did ours.

Genuine Identity and Purpose: The Money Will Flow

– First Published on Nasdaq –

How does knowing your identity impact how you relate to other people? What part does it play in boosting confidence? Throw the emotional and gravitational pull of money into the mix, and where does knowing or not knowing your identity fit?

There is no doubt that understanding your identity reflects who you are at the core. It informs the direction of your life. It highlights the importance of your communication style, whether professional or personal.

Here, we speak of identity as your inherent or innate passion and purpose and the associated behaviors, good or bad.

People, then numbers

It may go without saying that we are all different and being able to manage differences enriches relationships. That can be particularly impactful in the financial services industry, where the emotional pull of money is front and center.

In fact, understanding the identity of clients is foundational to the advisory process. The same is true of advisors knowing their own identity. On a day-to-day basis, advisors need to be able to adapt their own communication to those of others. For example, they need to know when to be direct, inclusive, soft, a listener, or a counselor.

When knowing identity focuses on the advisor-client relationship, walls come down, creating a much healthier framework for delivering advice. Advice that is likely to be more accurate and lasting. Clients know when an advisor genuinely knows them and cares about their life goals, plans, and wealth creation. They know when advice is more about people than numbers.

Money decisions are different

I’m passionate about pioneering the understanding of money behavior. We of course all have innate behaviors and understanding those behaviors – especially as pertains to decision making – is particularly challenging but also particularly revealing when it comes to money.

Money impacts every aspect of our lives. Money can power our lives positively or negatively, regardless of the amount of money we have.

But what I’ve confirmed over the past few years is that when individuals know their identity, they can put money to work for them positively. As a result, they tend to make fewer decisions – about money and finances but also about other things – that impact them negatively.

When you know your identity, you know your talents, and you know your inherent behaviors, leading to wealth creation via applying your skills and building meaningful, supportive relationships. Whether you are an individual investor or leading a team or organization, it’s essential to understand the energy of money and people’s relationship to it.

Identity as info & armor

We live in a world that is highly dynamic and interconnected. Whether the speed at which we all work, the many ways technology has shaped what we do, or the deluge of opportunities coming at us, we need to be able to flex. To adapt at a moment’s notice.

So, if identity is what shapes and protects us, we understand who we are and our inherent reactions, and we can flex and adapt securely. We are less likely to make bad decisions. Instead, we see opportunities for what they are and choose whether to grab them or walk away.

A cautionary note for advisors and industry leaders is that the environment changes regularly inside a business and in people’s lives. Unless identity is known, you have no way of anticipating how clients will respond to life challenges. In reality, you are advising and leading the (figuratively) blind.

As an advisor, knowing your own identity is transformative. It increases and clarifies the quality of the questions you ask your clients, the observations you make, and the guidance you provide them – including how and when you communicate with them. You know the importance of getting to foundational stuff that means the advice you give or leadership style you adopt is suitable for that individual in that scenario at that time.

The clarity of identity

Whatever your life circumstances are, discovering a robust identity and then living it is the pathway to accelerating your advancement. There are no magic bullets here. There is work and focus involved.

Once you get the clarity of your identity, your confidence will dramatically increase. Confidence is the Number One influencer of performance. The journey will be highly positive, and through it, you will be a better person, at work and at play. And, as an advisor, you will have a better business.

It’s true for both advisors and clients: Genuinely live your identity and your purpose, and the money will follow.

See Hugh’s other writings for Nasdaq here.

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.

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.

Does My Advisor Understand His Own Bias (Digitally)?

– First Published on Nasdaq –

I recently had an interesting conversation with an investor who had attended a behavioral finance webinar.

He shared that his advisor’s level of communication had improved dramatically – from being less tolerant and on occasions showing bias – to having a meaningful conversations about life-goals and how to tolerate sudden market movements. “I finally felt I was genuinely being coached instead of being bullied,” he said.

It seems the advisor’s firm had recently invested in adding a behavioral tech solution to its advisor portal. The client recalled completing a 10-minute questionnaire and learning more about his investing and spending habits. In addition, the advisor now had access to a range of dashboards and personalized information that enabled him to respond to his client’s specific goals, wants and needs digitally.

The investor was more than happy to see the level of communication lift and to have the advisor considerably more focused on his individual needs. He also noted it was the advisor’s own lack of bias that was the most notable.

I pressed the investor for an example or two.

“I’m a cautious investor,” he told me, “in fact I’m risk-averse and likely to respond to troubling market movements by selling, probably at the wrong time, but that’s who I am. I always felt my advisor had an edge of criticism when I shared my concern about uncertain markets and how they would impact my life goals.”

He went on to say that the advisor, through understanding him at a deeper level and checking his own bias (the advisor is a comfortable risk-taker) now understands how his previous responses to the client’s risk aversion was at best naive and at worst unprofessional.

Understanding, overcoming bias

This exchange got me thinking about the impact of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the financial services industry. When individuals are not aware of their own behavior and their own communication style, conversations can become toxic. Unintended, hidden bias is often the culprit.

That’s why doing everything possible to create an insightful human connection is so vital to so many business relationships, certainly including the financial advisory-client relationship.

Ultimately, we are all relying on a variety of video conferencing and other chat and tech platforms to conduct our business these days; however, when behavioral science guides the tech stack, inherent behaviors can be revealed in an instant digitally, making remote communication richer and more effective for all involved.

No longer is an advisor relying only on memory or CRM notes to refresh themselves on client behavior and how they might best respond to such. Behavior tech enables the advisor to know and understand natural behavior insights in real-time. By doing so they can better help the investor-client recognize that their behavioral biases are at play, providing perspective and, if needed, redirection and other tailored counsel.

These tools also can remind the advisor of their own bias and provide keys to remember when working with the client. This type of interaction creates a trusting relationship and reinforces the “know your client” fiduciary role to which responsible advisors are committed.

Feeling seen and understood

Unintended, unaddressed DEI issues are often at play when a professional conversation between an advisor and client leaves one or the other feeling stung or unheard. Consideration must be given to eliminating anything that causes confusion in a conversation because it can derail the interaction and even the entire relationship.

When a client feels behaviorally understood by their adviser, the relationship will flourish. Having insight into a client’s preferences, bias, communication styles and of course their “financial personality” reinforces the importance you as an advisor place on the relationship.

We all have blind spots. Most can be tolerated. However, those blind spots born out of ignorance are not ultimately acceptable, especially when there are tools to reveal and help correct. Add money and emotions to the equation and blind spots or bias can certainly harm or end client relationships. However, the client before and after experience above demonstrates that advisor-client service informed by validated behavioral insights is not only beneficial and powerful, but can actually save a relationship.

We can no longer sit back and tolerate a deafening silence on DEI, even if – or especially if – it is revealing itself via seemingly small but relationship damaging (or killing) occurrences. If nothing else, this recent conversation made me realize that the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion are part of the very fabric of all we do.

How will you spot advisor-client bias? How will you address it?

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!