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Looking Back, Looking Ahead Measuring and Managing Behavioral Differences Across Any Challenge

As COVID becomes more lesson learned and less daily challenge, we’re moving on stronger to help our clients make better high-stakes decisions using behavioral and money insights. If nothing else, the pressure caused by COVID underscores the critical importance of understanding and managing individual differences to enable the customization of experiences in every interaction and in decision-making.

For instance, if you can quantify and understand how employees and clients engage differently based on their innate programming, you can better manage a pivot, as when we all had to shift to remote working. Likewise, if you were lucky enough to already have individual behavior and money insights for decision-making in hand pre-pandemic, you could have been ahead of the pack, enabling more humanity to be baked into online interactions when in-person interactions were no longer an option.

In that way, the pandemic exemplifies our work as a behavior and money insights company providing applications (in both the operational and technical senses) well beyond financial planning. I note beyond the financial services industry because that’s where we started and are perhaps best known.

Expanding our behavioral chip deployments – the DNA API



Still, the power of measuring and managing behavioral differences, especially when such is easily configured for existing platforms and systems via an API or otherwise, need not stop at functional or industry borders. Customization via quantifiable, replicable, and validated behavioral insights are already powering human resource functions, entrepreneurship, insurance, planned giving, cybersecurity, marketing, interior design, and more.

As we see further decentralization and automation in the push to the digitalization of services, the power of behavior and money insights will only become more critical in the quest to enable the hyper-personalization of experiences. 2022 will see us deploying the DNA Behavior API as the “behavioral chip” within a number of other financial services corporations in the USA and globally, among others. Although, our goal will be to ensure the platforms that we deploy in do empower improved human interactions and not serve as a substitute for them.

Behavioral diversity – DEI re-focusing


Further, in 2022 we will expand the work we have done in helping enterprises and governmental organizations re-configure and grow their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs to include core segments for managing behavioral differences. While many DEI programs are well-intentioned and on the face of it “tick the box,” they have so far done little to improve workplace culture and how stakeholders (boards, executives, teams, clients, suppliers, and communities) engage with each other from a communication and talent management perspective.

Behavioral variability and digital benchmarking

In 2022, DNA Behavior will be doing more to help you make the right decisions about people, transactions, and events.

We will be partnering to launch an exciting bit of AI which solves the problem of the high variability in subjective judgment call decisions in which a similar outcome would be expected. Extensive research has shown there is a high level of “noise” in decision-making, or what we call behavioral variability, caused by unchecked intuition. Importantly, the organizational cost of this behavioral variability which is prevalent somewhere in most businesses can be measured. For instance, in determining client risk profiles and asset allocation, sales forecasting, valuations, hiring, budgeting, cost estimations, quoting fees for services, quality control, and the like.

The AI is known as “GENE” which is a digital twin that will help decision-makers use objective insights or benchmarks in the making of judgment decisions.

Here’s what that looks like: 10 different financial advisors, faced with the same inputs about the same client, could make 10 different assessments of risk and asset allocation. Further, they can make different assessments about whether the client is an ideal fit and how they should be interacted with. But aren’t there always those, say, 5 to10 best performers, who analyze the data and get their decisions right –or at least closer to right –than anyone else? More of the time? Well, this digital benchmarking builds a digital twin so those best-case assessments can be emulated, or at least referenced, every time a decision is made.

These digital clones don’t replace advisors or professionals in other areas; rather, they serve as a check/balance, helping them hone their expertise–another tool enabling you’re A-Team to harness behavioral diversity and behavioral variability to nail great decisions and outcomes at an even higher rate.

In addition, we are building a GENE FAQ to help you more quickly get answers at your fingertips to specific questions that are not immediately obvious from reading a report.

Upgrades + a book

The New Year also brings upgrades of our own, as we recognize the need for an expanded range of insights (500+!) to be available at your fingertips with ready-to-go analysis, greater flexibility, and the dashboard functionality increasingly used – especially by larger organizations–while continuing to meet the technical complexities of our clients and partners who also will realize even greater cyber security benefits.

In 2022 comes another re-launch, this time of Financial DNA: Discovering Your Unique Financial Personality for a Quality Life, Hugh Massie’s book originally published by Wiley in 2006. Updates to the book reflect advances and refinements of DNA Behavior systems.

Boys Without Fathers charity

I would posit that all of my work is a passion project, but a philanthropic passion project becomes real in 2022 with the launch of Boys Without Fathers, a charity that will empower boys (and their families) from homes in which a father was not present from a very young age via literacy, character development, mentoring to make decisions and entrepreneurship.

I discovered in hosting Identity Conversations with our clients this year that there was a high prevalence of us (including me) growing up in a home where the father was not there from a very early age for whatever reason. The loss and trauma have been shown through research to cause literacy and character development issues, along with the difficulty of finding their identity and place in the world. The issues are similar regardless of race, culture, or opportunity. So, starting the Boys Without Fathers fulfills another dream for me of empowering youth globally to live a life of meaning which I have been fortunate to do.

The DNA systems will be deployed as we partner with remarkable people like Dr. Greg Spencer and incredible organizations like his footsteps 2 brilliance and Terry Hawkins and Jeff Morris from DreamSmart Academy, and others. Robust collaborations will drive mentoring and training and coaching programs. To learn more, contact us at inquiries@dnabehavior.com and let me know if you want to collaborate or help the Boys Without Fathers charity in some way when it is up and running around March 2022.

Identity conversations

To help you go to the next stage in telling the world about the great work you are doing or to become liberated in discovering your meaning and how you aspire the world to see you, let’s hook you up with an Identity Conversation. In a one-hour conversation, the value of everything you have done in your life that has got you today will be unpacked and a platform for accelerating dramatic growth will be set.

Leading with behavior & money insights roundtable discussions

In whatever way you interact with us (round table, identity interview, or some new, inventive collab?) we’ll be leveraging the measurement and management of human differences toward better decisions, better outcomes. After all, 20 years of research and almost half as many years in the practical application of behavior and money insights demonstrate solid, growing demand for leaders who know and understand the impact of behavior and money, particularly the behavior around money decisions.

We’re focused on behavior variability: Again, why do different individuals make different decisions about the same things? From leaders making sales forecasts to financial advisors assessing risk in portfolio allocation to teams making key hires and budgeting costs, families making decisions, and buying businesses. Imagine the impacts!

If you want to be included in one of our round tables, please email us at: inquiries@dnabehavior.com

Intuition + data

I’ll leave you with this stark stat: Intuition has proven to be 28 percent accurate. Less than a third. Now, I’m not asking you to throw your valuable and well-earned “gut” feeling out. But I am advocating the delay of the use of that alone with time for cognitive reflection. Bring an objective assessment to your decisions with better data analysis, more structured decision-making using the Gene Decision Method, and consultation with the Gene AI Digital Twin. To your leadership. To your investments. To your new-year forecasting and planning…

While you ponder that, please accept my wishes for a terrific holiday season and a bright new year in which we might partner toward making your best high-stakes decisions ever.

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.

Can Behavioral Diversity Strengthen Financial Advice?

– First Published on Nasdaq –

When financial advisors bring unique backgrounds and perspectives to the advisory process, including behavioral diversity, it can strengthen financial advice.

That’s not only a win-win for advisor and client, but it can also be the edge advisors need and the edge savvy clients are looking for. In fact, delivering consensus advice that results in mediocre outcomes will cease once advisors and clients recognize the importance of understanding behavioral diversity.

One advantage of adding behavioral diversity to the planning mix: Financial advisors can provide advice that delivers wealth creation supporting a client’s individual life goals. This advice will truly focus on the uniqueness of the client.

Behavioral diversity overdue

I wonder how much of the financial services industry has robust practices in dealing with behavioral diversity in their hiring processes? But I question how many have extended this approach and consideration to the financial advisory exchange between advisor and client?

Current diversity discussions tend to focus on gender identity, sexual orientation, age, race, ethnicity, religion, marital status and health & disability status, but little debate occurs around behavioral diversity in decision-making.

And behavioral diversity concentrates on the idea that, within a workplace, different types of behaviors work better. Why then is there little or no discussion about behavioral diversity in the financial planning process?

If behavioral diversity is defined as encompassing different and varied behavior patterns exhibited between individuals, consider these questions:

  • How can a financial advisor quickly get below the surface to understand the behavioral diversity of their clients?
  • How can advisors deliver advice that is unique and satisfies their client’s behavioral diversity?
  • How can advisors and clients have a meaningful communication exchange based on one another’s behavioral diversity?

The key is to reveal a client’s varied and unique way of thinking, not just in terms of life goals but also how clients make financial decisions and their emotional reactions to markets.

I would suggest that most of the financial planning industry can understand their clients’ bias and risk factors. But behavioral diversity refers to the traits and characteristics that make people unique. Without addressing that individuality, can you ever really achieve the “secret sauce” of truly top-flight financial advisors?

People react differently to an extraordinary range of issues and, in the process, exhibit significant behavioral diversity. This is especially true when money is involved. The emotional pull of money brings out the best and worst in individuals. This, for any financial advisor, is a potential minefield.

Objective rather than subjective

With this in mind, let’s reflect on previous articles published in this space about using a validated behavioral profiling process to identify significant levels of inherent behavior. Adding such functionality to your existing tech stack to reveal communication styles and behavioral diversity can go a long way to helping everyone feel heard and seen.

Once you have automated this aspect of the advisory process, you can get to the good stuff, planning to increase the wealth that furthers both the mundane and the exciting life goals.

For the financial planning industry to succeed, it is not enough to break down walls and start growing a behaviorally diverse profile of each advisor and client. Behavioral diversity must be understood and managed on an ongoing basis so as not to be superficial. Authenticity may be an overused word these days, but it is the critical goal here.

Onboarding this extra edge

Creating change in the financial advisory industry requires that several elements be put in place:

  • A genuine commitment to investing in data-gathering to reveal a client’s behavioral diversity.
  • The transparency to build trust through advisors-client matching.
  • Education programs that help advisors understand behavioral diversity.
  • Recognition that behavioral diversity is not tokenism and is more than and goes deeper than current DEI initiatives. (It is an “and,” not an “or.”)
  • Look at all aspects of the diversity pipeline.

Consider the difference. On one hand, a number of meetings with a client before you can start delivering a tailored financial plan and, even then, it may never be truly objective or well-focused on their individuality. On the flip, imagine a client spending 10 minutes to complete a questionnaire that delivers a deep understanding (for them and for their advisor) of every aspect of their behavioral diversity.

See Leon’s other writings for Nasdaq here.

Your Identity Sets You Apart From Other Advisors

What sets you apart from other advisors? Are you all about the “doing” in your role as an advisor and less about the essence of your being?

As the sardonic writer Kurt Vonnegut once said, “you are a human being and not a human doing.”

Discovering your identity — the concept of who you are and who you choose to be — has impact on every choice and decision you make, including in knowing what your life goal is. Your identity helps you and your clients become more secure in yourself. And self-insight fosters a clearer “vision” about yourself and those you serve.

So what are the steps to achieve self-discovery for yourself and your clients?

1. Identity is a critical factor

An interesting theme is emerging from my “Identity Conversations” with industry leaders. Leaders want to run businesses that are known for more than just numbers on a balance sheet. Many have spent the past year reviewing their life journey and some have changed the direction of their organizations to reflect a more meaningful way of doing business. 

Interestingly, advisors who are determined to make these changes for themselves also realize that their clients want to invest differently. Clients are also modifying their life goals to reflect a more meaningful direction.

The discovery of your identity is crucial for both your personal growth and business growth. In many cases, the identity of a business is strongly correlated to the leader’s identity. And what I find is that people’s identity may be the most critical factor affecting their economic lives.

2. Decode clients and their wants

The financial services industry is full of analytical doers. There will never be a shortage of intelligent finance people who are able to analyze the markets, not to mention all the software programs they have at their fingertips to assist them.

But what is missing – and only slowly coming to the fore – is the importance of understanding behavior. There are fewer people in finance who understand investor mindsets. The ones who can analyze and guide clients to achieve their life goals are able to focus not just on returns but also on quality of life.

So this would be the differentiator for a financial advisor: be able to decode exactly what a client wants to achieve with their money. But this can only happen when financial advisors first stop and explore their own identity. 

3. Move from “doing” to “being”

Knowing and embracing who we are is the key to understanding our identity. “Doing” often means hyperactivity in our chosen careers. This often gives little to no time to understand ourselves, clouding our values, impacting relationships and causing us to behave in unacceptable ways.

Additionally, sometimes how busy we are causes us to question our life journey. This past year has caused many of us to ask, what am I doing with my life?

If you have had these aha moments, so have your clients. In fact, those I’ve been having conversations with recently have shared that it is so important to go through a self-discovery process. They said that moving from doing to being has positively affected their quality of life, and that they have been influencing and guiding their clients through a similar process.

4. Wealth management refocused

Let’s be clear, though, this has not changed the need to invest in wealth creation vehicles. What has changed is the “why” of doing it and where you are investing or re-investing. For example, there has been a renewed focus on ESG investing (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance), but that’s a story for another day.

When we know our identity, we are less likely to be influenced by unsuitable advice. We take control of our own decision-making and no longer feel powerless.

I know that’s easier said than done, but is it that difficult? When advisors know and understand their own identity (and that their intentions to clients are not just about activity but about real purpose), working with clients to achieve life goals based on a mutual understanding of identity becomes much easier. This becomes the secret sauce that sets financial advisors apart and improves client outcomes.

So work with clients to find their true identity. Communicate, not as a salesperson, but as someone who genuinely wants to steer clients through their biases, leading them to an investment strategy that meets both their identity needs and wealth creation needs. 

If understanding your identity or the concept of “doing” rather than “being” resonates with you, I’d love to hear from you. Your questions. Your experiences. Your journeys.

See Hugh’s other writings for Nasdaq here.

What Do Decision-Making and Financial Literacy Have in Common?

Have you ever wondered what goes into each individual’s decision-making process? We make decisions based on facts and information that is delivered to us. 

When it comes to managing money, the same rules apply. How does that affect financial advisors and their relationships with their clients? Find out more in the newest episode of FizWizdom where podcast host Joel Franks discussed the importance of seeing beyond the borders of a picture.

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!