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Capitalize on ESG Investing Via Your Tech Stack

– First Published on Nasdaq –

The 1990s introduced “the triple bottom line” as a measure of the integrity and sustainability of a business. Investors wanted to know their money was doing something meaningful, understanding that the “triple” in question is profit, people and the planet. The concept evolved into Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) and is increasingly mainstream, less niche.

In fairness, the ’90s didn’t have the technology to support ESG. But now advisors can have validated information at the touch of a button, if they have first invested in tech and data (gathering). For instance, today’s advisors can have a client complete a simple, scientifically validated questionnaire that reveals essential information. This enables the advisor to make accurate, appropriate investment suggestions that match the client personality and risk tolerance, as well as their ESG inclinations.

In support of such, every financial advisory business has some form of tech stack. If it’s easier, think of it as the data ecosystem – all of the tech the firm invests in. Still, not everyone has a plug-in that leverages that tech stack by revealing important behavioral data on clients or delivers behaviorally focused scripts on guiding clients. For those without such, tech makes such a plug-in easily accessible, without reinventing the existing tech stack.

Amp up advice with tech

Connecting technology with financial advice and behavior enables advisors to work more effectively with people.

Tech stacks that match clients to advisors and not just safeguard against advisors putting clients into high-risk or low-risk investments can help advisors fully appreciate what ESG means to clients. Behaviorally understanding clients and taking a figurative walk in their shoes is always beneficial in other ways too. This is when a financial advisor and client can truly develop a solid partnership with a mutual view of the world (including as it pertains to ESG investment needs).

Talking recently to a colleague about this very subject, I was interested to learn that a large gap often exists in the tech capability of firms and the very financial advisors who want and need real-time nudging data on and for clients. While advisors are struggling to keep all the balls in the air, my colleague’s firm steps into the gap to work with advisors to understand the tech stack at their fingertips, so they can use it effectively. (And why not maximize that tech investment?).

One such area: Understanding the client’s need to invest in ESG businesses. What’s behind the “whys,” among other questions. Is it to feel good, look good or to genuinely see such an approach delivering not only wealth creation but a quality life?

For advisors to listen and understand the behavioral shift in investors (their clients!), they need to better connect people to technology and business requirements in order to get investors to accurately connect. (That’s where the aforementioned discovery questionnaire pays dividends.) This enables advisors to deliver targeted advice that satisfies ESG requirements for the investor.

An advisor’s most significant impact must surely be in connecting – via technology – investor feelings to the investment strategy that matches their emotions and still creates the wealth they require for life goals. When advisors get this right, it delivers an incredible capacity to bring about positive change in investors’ lives.

THAT is the bigger picture of the advisor-client relationship – and one that is easy to lose sight of, when focusing on the proverbial trees.

Where ESG comes from, is going…

The shift toward ESG doesn’t always come from an analytical brain; more often it originates from feelings. If this past year has taught us anything, it’s that we are all taking time to consider the next season of our lives, including what we will focus on. What we might do differently.

Thus, savvy advisors are alert to the market for ESG-based investing as it becomes both increasingly popular and more complex, primarily due to upcoming regulatory and compliance changes.

Even now, there are indications that all providers of financial products must consider client ESG preferences when deciding and advising the suitability of investments. Firms and advisors who have already invested in tech that fosters tailored, behaviorally focused client and portfolio management are ahead of that curve – already meeting or exceeding standards that have not even been implemented yet.

In-depth data at an advisor’s fingertips is what this market demands, especially when it comes to popular niches like ESG investing. Advisors can provide more informed, focused and client-specific client guidance. On the flip, clients can make more informed, less-stressful investment decisions, while also seeing that they are part of a process in which they are “seen” and heard and which they can be confident is transparent.

These are some of my insights regarding ESG and technological solutions; I’d love to hear your insights on the same.

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.

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.

Business man seated at desk looking at paperwork

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.

dna behavior community

Who Is Your Community and How Are You Influencing It?

– First Published on Nasdaq –

In many ways, the pandemic denied us access to the ever-important concept of “community.” We had to find new and innovative ways to stay in touch with others.

Still, there is no true substitute for one-on-one or one-on-many connections. Especially those with a range of people with which to build relationships and community.

So, as I conclude my look at what it means to live a quality life, I’m reminded that if 2020 has taught us anything, it should be the importance of having deep social bonds and meaningful relationships. Again, community.

Setting life goals

Along with my growing band of online social network connections, I have deliberated on our life goals, what we want to accomplish and where and how we want to invest our money, realizing that finding the answer to these questions has required each of us to dig deep into our DNA, including the behaviors that drive decision-making, support values and fulfill personal ambitions.

Setting clear life goals is beneficial in several ways. However, setting life goals that make a difference in the world is trickier.

As I review past goals and begin crafting the way forward with a focus on community, I find myself looking to my behavior and asking why I am drawn to certain projects. I am a strategist with a strong drive to reach key goals, based on sound knowledge, high quality processes and quality control standards.

This inherent behavior is not at odds with how I have been going about my quality life. I don’t need to change my behavior, but what I find myself doing is realigning what I have always wanted to do with my life. This past year of isolation has brought that realignment to the fore. So, how to adjust my personal, financial and commercial goals more intentionally to achieve a quality life?

When life goals are based on our values, they are meaningful. When they align with our behavior they allow us to pursue authentic aims of our own choosing and enjoy a feeling of achievement when we get there.

The more I have considered my life goals, how I invest and where I invest, the more I recognize I am charting a course for the next season of my life.

Underpinnings of behavior

My community is more than neighbors or supporting environmental issues; these are a given focus. My community is industry leaders, individuals building a business, and – top of the list – captains of industry facing high-stakes interactions where understanding the behaviors at play will drive solutions for them.

If I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that the motivating force beneath any and all behaviors is money.

Business leaders, advisors and investors are now recognizing the influence of behavior and money attitudes on life, and on financial and business performance. Increasingly, a person’s financial behavior is being seen as a derailer of decision-making and relationships, not to mention the achievement of life goals.

Here’s how I’m working on achieving life goals, aligned to passion to support my community: Over the past few weeks I have been conducting one-on-one online conversations with key leaders and professionals representing a wide variety of industries.

The purpose is identifying how their talents and individual EQ plays a role in maximizing their impact and what they have come to understand about their behavior patterns. In every case, so far, there has been a significant moment when understanding their behavior changed the direction of their life.

Big questions lead to simple questions, answers

In all cases each wanted to finish their working day believing they had made a difference for good. So my question to you is this: Who is your community and how are you influencing it?