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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.

Identity Conversation with Hugh – Financial Preparedness

It’s not every day that you come across a platform dedicated to educating consumers and advocating for financial preparedness. In this Identity interview, Hugh sits down with Tony Steuer, Chief Content and Financial Education Officer of Paperwork.

Tony Steuer is based in California. He is passionate about financial literacy and educating consumers on best financial practices.

Tony started his career in the insurance industry and was exposed to the ins and outs of the financial space in the United States. He realized that consumers were not fully educated on the financial services they were buying or aware of the right questions to ask.

While doing litigation consulting for wealth management firms, he realized that most of those issues consumers face have more to do with lack of education than malice. Granted there are some ill-intentioned individuals out there taking advantage of their clients, but not only does the lack of financial literacy not help, it actually creates a gap between both parties

Tony retired from being a consultant and has been dedicating his time to financial education and consumer advocacy with Paperwork. His goal is for consumers to feel empowered to make financial decisions that serve their long-term goals.

Click below to watch the full interview.

Our Word for 2021 Is Authenticity

It has been a frequent practice as of late to choose a focus word that would sum-up your current or upcoming year. The purpose of it is to set an intention, a goal you seek to achieve, or a quality of some sort that you want to ensure you actions throughout the year are being filtered by.

The start of a year is usually a natural time to reflect, celebrate, and plan. What has been known for decades as new year’s resolution has now been reframed as new years intentions.

This is something that we at DNA Behavior have been doing for years. We built our process to be inclusive of many qualities, the main one being authenticity. You see the process of gathering scientifically based behavioral data is interesting. Filled with comments and contradictions.

We at DNA Behavior have seen and heard them all. The most often heard is:

  • that is such an accurate report about me
  • I thought completing the process would be easier
  • but the process was hard
  • I didn’t know which way to respond
  • I had to just go for it
  • look at how accurate the outcomes are
  • I really like the DNA results, but the journey was hard

And so much more. We make no apologies for the 10-minute DNA Natural Behavior Discovery questionnaire using 138 different words in 46 interlocking Forced Choice Questions. The questions are deliberately tight so that a specific outcome is achieved. Definitely, a right data in, right data out approach has been taken.

We know the importance of being able to authentically defend our discovery process is why we are so well positioned in the marketplace. When the DNA Discovery Process was designed it was critical, too, that the questions removed situational, cultural and educational biases and could not be easily gamed. Further, at all costs we wanted highly predictive measurable behavioral insights which would be universally applicable across the globe for all people and remain true for the long term regardless of the situation or circumstances the person is in. In other words, it would get to the core of who the person is. We knew this holy grail of behavioral measurement could be achieved and is forever grateful for the knowledge and guidance of Carol Pocklington and Lee Ellis to show the pathway.

Yes, we could simplify the questionnaire, but why would we? That said, we listened to our customers, and one of the important business keys we discovered was that customer concerns are a rich source of marketing material. One of our friends – David Rendell talks about in Freak Marketing that looking to your greatest weaknesses will be sitting your greatest strength.

If customers were loving the outcome but not the process, what was this saying about our discovery process? We discovered (though we knew it) that our process may be antagonizing our customers by the tight choices it asks them to make when choosing Most Like and Least Like from 3 non-situational words or phrases across 46 questions. Some say, I am all of those in about 6 to 8 of the questions.

What the questions are doing is getting the participant to prioritize their greatest strengths/talents. It is not saying for the 3 choices they are not like them in any way. In varying degrees, we exhibit all the words in some situations. It is more about how regularly and strongly the behaviors are exhibited.

Overall, we found ourselves being able to offensively defend the questionnaire since it more reliably delivered better, deeper and more incisive insights into unique behaviors over long time periods. Again, when you must make serious decisions, do you want to participate in a fun and sometimes lengthy process which gives you a shallow and unreliable result? Or, would you rather participate in a quick but tight process which provides a deep set of very accurate insights that will be true for your life time?

Our purpose with the DNA Discovery process is to uncover the natural DNA behavior that sits below the surface; it is not seen because it is masked by the more dynamic (situational) learned behaviors that are shaped by the person’s life experiences, education and values.

Therefore, a person’s overall personality, at any stage of their life, may be seen to change, but their core natural behavior will remain very consistent. Further, revealing core natural behavior draws out their inherent talents, strengths and struggles (blind spots) and communication styles.

The DNA Behavior Natural Discovery Process was designed to holistically uncover, capture and measure all dimensions of a person’s natural DNA behavioral style as the core of their personality. That is their ingrained, go-to, hard-wired behavior that was set by the time they were 3 years old. This is how people inherently make decisions, take direction and work with others; how they interact and build relationships, achieve results, handle information, complete tasks, develop trust, set and achieve goals, take and live with risks and their learning styles. This also includes their communication style, financial decision-making style, behavioral (finance) biases and their response to market movement (as an example).

After significant academic research and discussions with our independent team of experts, we selected the Forced Choice Assessment Model over the more traditionally used Normative (Likert-type) Scaling Model for measuring Natural DNA behavior. This led to the design of the DNA Natural Behavior Discovery Process; a system capable of assessing 8 major personality factors as well as 24 related sub-factors. The fact we can reliably measure 32 behaviors from 138 words across 46 questions is remarkable given that other systems need 15 to 25 questions to measure 1 behavior with less accuracy.

So, what is the Forced Choice Assessment- The traditional Forced Choice Assessment format is a descriptor used in psychometrics to signify a specific type of measure in which respondents compare two or more desirable options and pick the one that is most preferred. This is contrasted with measures that use Normative/Likert-type scales, in which respondents choose the score (e.g. 1 to 5) which best represents the degree to which they agree with a statement. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ipsative

A correctly structured Forced Choice format using singular words (versus sentences and statements) presents the individual with item options that are equal in desirability with situational, cultural and educational biases removed; this ensures response choices they make will be far less likely to be influenced by social desirability, circumstances, experiences education or environment. Therefore, the outcomes will reveal inherent behaviors, hardwired core traits and strengths and struggles of the person being assessed which are universally applicable.

We are aggressively authentic in defending our method, the outcomes and the process. Were not embarrassed about this. Our approach is intentional.

Tight questions, using the Forced Choice methodology, get great life results and outcomes which are very strong. This enables individuals to understand their unique inherent behavior and from that position make strong life and business decisions.

The Forced Choice format forces the participant to instinctively choose their answer, and respond more truthfully, as there is not one obviously desirable quality to pick from. Also, the Forced Choice format reduces the potential for the participant to agree or disagree. A Forced Choice format using triads of items (a block of 3) enables greater insight into the interactions between the items for enabling more specific measurement of the behavioral factors (traits).

Further – the results place behavioral knowledge firmly in the hands of the individual. From this position –

  • They are better able to understand who they are in terms of strengths and struggles.
  • They have substance upon which to base life, financial and business decisions.
  • It tells people how to manage their communication style.
  • It reveals talents both overt and hidden that can be applied to career choices.

One of the important outcomes of this discovery approach is to understand that strengths, (upon which most people focus) can, under certain circumstances, become struggles and are difficult to manage without self-awareness and knowledge.

Why not spend 10 to 12 minutes learning about your own unique natural DNA style. Take the Business DNA Natural Behavior Discovery process or the Financial DNA Natural Behavior Discovery Process. Use the link below to take you to the questionnaire.

This scientifically based and validated discovery will reveal significant aspects of your natural behavioral style that is the core of your personality. It will help you as make healthy life, business and financial decisions.

Contact us if you would like to discuss this. Our highly skilled consultants will provide you with feedback on the discovery and help you to take the next step in building a behaviorally smart life. To learn more, please speak with one of our DNA Behavior Specialists (LiveChat), email inquiries@dnabehavior.com, or visit DNA Behavior

A Fresh Look at Wisdom and the Way Forward

– First Published on Nasdaq –

In the midst of the pandemic, and particularly with vaccines and a new year on the way, we’re all more reflective. A direct benefit of such reflection is a willingness to change and reinvent. Where are you in this process?

As I continue my quality life journey – after all, isn’t that what we’re all on? – I’m reminded that, even with the best intentions, having the wisdom to make good decisions is foundational. Those decisions may be about life purpose, finances, relationships or…?

To wit, Plato believed that wisdom was theoretical or abstract. Aristotle, his pupil, disagreed, saying that wisdom was a kind of moral compass that guides our thinking and behavior. Whatever philosopher(s) you follow, there is no doubt gaining wisdom is worth pursuing.

How else can we make the best decisions for our lives, yet reflect on the theories, wisdom and experience of others and see what that might spark in ourselves?

Parsing and deploying wisdom

Central to my continuing pursuit of a quality life: I understand the importance of applying wisdom to the financial and life decisions I make. You might say that’s one of my superpowers that comes from the natural DNA behavior of being extremely rational. That’s coupled with the ability to quickly turn vision into practical reality and being able to easily make sense of messy situations and complicated information. We all have a superpower; it just varies individually.

And, knowing that I am goal-driven, that I will revel in complex challenges and that I will take initiative, it was important for me to understand and measure my level of wisdom. Yes, there are behavioral science tools that enable such measurement.

This measurable wisdom didn’t come without being self-aware, researching, surrounding myself with quality thought leaders and investing in educating myself. While I am inherently wise, I also know the importance of gaining knowledge and applying it judiciously.

As a single man, wisdom in making decisions was never an issue. What changed was becoming a family man, as the needs of others had to be built into my thinking. This is a good lesson for all: Your foundational behaviors do not change, but factors around them do and must be accounted for.

This Family Phase of life is when I began to understand the differences of practical wisdom. That is, knowing the right thing to do in a particular circumstance through understanding that particular circumstance, knowing what matters, and effectively reasoning to bring about what matters. The means to an end.

Practical versus theoretical

Theoretical wisdom is knowledge of things that don’t change. (Akin to unchanging innate behavior, which I talk about a lot because it is at the core of my work.) Then there are ethics – about what is really right and wrong…what is living well and living badly, as stated well in “Key Concepts in Practical Philosophy,” by David Arnaud and Tim LeBon.

Financial decision-making was my first real entry into the whole area of wisdom and decision-making. As a young man I was constantly confused by financial advisors who thought they understood me sufficiently to push investment opportunities my way. I never recall having a conversation about my life goals or reasons for wealth creation.

Their insight must have hinged – or so they thought – on generic or theoretical wisdom, because it certainly was not specific to me, the client.

So, began my (life and career) journey into understanding the importance of gaining wisdom through self-awareness, knowledge, experience and recognizing that I had, for example, a built-in, very high tolerance for financial market movements. And tolerance and resiliency around extreme life and business changes.

Put another way, I can quickly see changes coming and innately know what to do to position myself for the future. Also, with experience and with a rationale mind, I have learned to look at patterns of situations and the messages flowing out of them to discern what to do next. And the vision to synchronize and share that insight with others who needed to understand me in order to work with or advise me.

It became clear to me as I moved through life that wealth creation needed to have a purpose. Family security was obviously at the top of the list, but equally important was a quality life focus. THAT is the difference between theoretical and practical wisdom.

Wisdom, goals & wealth creation

The pandemic has clearly redefined direction for many people, and I’m no exception. Remote working has not harmed my business and the same can be said of many of our clients. Of course, like many others, I have had to invest in additional technology to make communication more effective, but in truth I – with my team – have continued to strategize and run and grow our global business (predominantly online).

In fact, over the last 8 or so years we had been moving the business to a virtual environment so we could be flexible and nimble, knowing that the world had become increasingly dynamic with fundamental business changes taking place every 2 years. The intuitive sense to do this could be said to be innate wisdom at work driven by rationality.

So, where does wisdom fit in this quality life scenario? For me, information alone is not wisdom. I believe wisdom is found in our own insight and the ability to piece together multiple bits of information to build a clearer picture. If nothing else, this period of being on lockdown has enabled many to rethink the life and lifestyle they have been leading.

Many of my friends and colleagues are reflecting on insights they’ve had. Often this is a reflection of ideas, life directions, goals and direction(s) they had in their youth. This fresh awakening of wisdom – and questioning the quality direction of their lives – is providing answers for the here and now.

And, yes, all of this can and should lead to conversations with financial advisors. Why? Wealth creation decisions are – and should be – made around life goals. And life goals are not the same for every person or even for the same people at different stages.

What role wisdom as life realigns?

If we’ve survived with remote working, can/should this approach continue? As our own opportunities increase, who can we help? Where can we make a difference? Who needs to be brought alongside us and coached?

All these thoughts have come not just from coping with a global virus but from knowing the importance of applying wisdom to our quality of life going into the future.

How will you calibrate your wisdom and sync such with quality life goals? In turn, how will you enable that to drive your work with and on behalf of clients, all the while helping them discover their balance for wisdom-quality life-financial decision-making?

Pursuit of Money Can Kill Relationships

– First Published on Nasdaq –

As I continue my journey through gaining a deeper understanding of what living a quality life actually means, I’m reminded that my original life plan was to create wealth, be successful and provide for my family.

I previously would have said that all the financial decisions I make point me toward achieving that plan. During this time of pandemic lock down, however, I – like many others – have taken time out to consider how well I’ve achieved these goals. Or not. And whether a directional change is needed in terms of my quality life goals.

Succeed, with relationships intact

I recently held a virtual round table with friends. We’re all at the same stage in life, all having the same rethinking life moments, and I put these questions to them: What is the biggest stumbling block? The most difficult to resolve as you build your wealth?

I was surprised to hear that each responded in a similar vein: The biggest challenge they face is damage to relationships.

While our intention in terms of wealth creation is laudable; that is, building wealth for the family, investing in building our businesses and ultimately having meaningful goals that build a quality life, the reality for each of us was some cost to our relationships in some area of life – family, business or personal.

It’s probably worth stating that we as a friendship group are quite alike behaviorally. We are initiators, strategists and world pioneers in our chosen fields. But, that said, we each acknowledge that we didn’t always get relationships right.

Two of us are in the business of understanding behavioral differences, but it was a journey to get there and there was some bruising along the way. For the others, we decided to dig deeper into where the relationship “fails” were and why.

On a personal level, each shared that discussions around finances caused stress. Success doesn’t mean these difficult discussions go away. So why?

Money always at play

Given the types of personalities we are – and having little or no depth of insight into our partners’ financial personality – we were making all the decisions. Yes, we’d have “token” conversations, but in reality we’d already made up our minds and plowed ahead toward achieving the life goals we had set (probably back in college days).

Obviously, as a friendship group we agreed to invest in getting behavioral advice and learning about our own behavior and how to manage inevitable differences as couples. A key learning from this advice was the principle that behavioral styles drive money (thereby influencing every personal, financial and business decision) and the flow of money reflects behavioral styles. Conversations will be had at home as we pluck up the courage to delve into this prickly and emotionally charged subject.

In this group, some of us were starting to open our eyes as we looked into the broader family dynamics we had each come from – whether it was a controlling grandparent or a riches-to-rags situation. Or a divorce because a parent was a spender. There is even the opposite phenomenon where friction is caused because both parents are hoarders, denying the family opportunities. In the end, we could all see how money was always at play, positively and negatively driving every relationship dynamic.

Invest in relationships

But then we moved onto our businesses. Again, we realized that our focus was on success, achieving results and in many cases we’d each delegated “relationships” to others in our businesses.

I have a very astute personal assistant and was reminded of a remark she made some time ago after I’d needed to admonish one of my key executives. She said, “do I need to mop up any blood after you?”

As I shared this thought with the group, we each agreed that we needed to review, invest in and better manage our relationships. Our future success or failure could depend on how we handled them. Even in business settings it became apparent that in different ways the energy of money was a motivational player and therefore impacting workplace relationships. Even if people come to work for other reasons than making money, money still plays its hand.

Managing relationships, whether personal or business, must begin with understanding our own personality and character. Strong relationships, I firmly believe, come from: A deep understanding and self-awareness of our own character, EQ (emotional intelligence), decision-making style and pressure-point hot spots. In other words, what are our own flash points and what or who pushes them?

Finding common touchpoints

Thinking of our work colleagues, we all agreed that we chase results. Further, we have no time for long-winded conversations. Even more frustrating are those colleagues around us who seem to take forever to make a decision.

This brought out how important understanding each person’s unique communication needs are to building relationships. Yes, if the communication needs are not being met – then somehow money will be right there driving a wedge in the relationship even if it was not the original cause. The point is, money is always there even if it is not the initiator of the problem.

With insightful behavioral knowledge it’s clear the long-winded are story tellers. They can paint a full and often complete picture of the issues. They deserve to be listened to, but maybe the learning point for us is to let them know that bullet points work better, followed by a more comprehensive written communication to support their points.

What about the slow decision maker? These folks are often gatekeepers to the safety of the business. They need time to think and absorb all information. They don’t want to make the wrong decision. In short, these people need to be listened to by fast-paced people (such as those of us in the friend group).

Again, if we understand our own innate behaviors – and the innate behaviors and decision-making styles of others – we can adjust and coach, for a win-win-win in terms of both parties’ communication and decision-making, as well as the interaction and outcomes.

The role of relationships

So, how important are relationships in your life? As you invest – in yourself and otherwise – to achieve the quality life goals you want, are you protecting the relationships that are part of the quality life you are building?

Have you considered the influence of your life direction and the core of who you are as a person as being important? And does that direction you’ve chosen align with the relationships you have, and need, to achieve the life goals you aspire to?

These are important conversations to have as we unpack what a quality life looks like. Join me, as the conversations are ongoing….

Getting In The Way Of Our Own Financial Success

Getting In The Way Of Our Own Financial Success

This article first appeared on Nasdaq.

If we are to be effective in the decisions we make, we need to understand our uniqueness, our talent, our individual behavior and our personality. Without this insight, we are unlikely to make rational, wealth-growing financial decisions.

What gets in the way of our own success? Lack of self-awareness? Do we have a bias we are unaware of? Perhaps it’s because we do not know how or why we make the decisions we do. Or maybe it’s because we have no life plan or direction in life.

That’s what we call getting in the way of our own successes, whether financial or in life in general. So, expecting financial advisors to know how to advise us is a big ask. We are all unique, even though some of us might share similarities, we are all different in terms of how we respond to situations and make financial decisions.

Add to the mix a partner, and unless we and they devote time in to understanding each other’s communication, behavioral and decision-making approach, we simply have more confusion. More to decipher. I might add that the partnership dynamic is often a significant problem for financial advisors to navigate. Examples:

  • One party is results-focused; the other relationship-focused.
  • One wants the pension fund; the other the big house.
  • One wants to research and make the financial investment decisions without an advisor. The other needs guidance from an expert.
  • One is trusting and will go with whatever the advisor says. The other is skeptical and questioning and challenges everything they say.
  • One is comfortable taking risk; the other cautious and conservative.

Still, we often put our financial decisions in the hands of advisors who have absolutely no understanding of how to manage these our differences. Therefore, we make dumb decisions and get in the way of our own success. Not only that, if we make no attempt to be behaviorally self-aware, we will keep making the same dumb decisions and failing at our own financial success. I believe we make those dumb decisions because:

  • We lack self-worth.
  • We lack confidence.
  • We are too easily persuaded.
  • We are not growing in terms of understanding our behavior.
  • We don’t understand how to buy time out to consider our response to decision making.

Or perhaps we simply fail to consider the why of what we are doing. Why:

  • Am allowing other people to make financial decisions for me?
  • Have I not considered the significance of delegating these life decisions?
  • Is it that I’m accepting the decisions others are making about my life and circumstances?
  • Aren’t I making these decisions for myself?

Taking a step to gain insight into our inherent talents and behaviors ensures we are well equipped to understand how we make decisions. What should our life goals be? How and when and who to entrust with advising us? There are many quality behavioral data gathering processes that can be used. Be behaviorally smart and make sure you the advisor know yourself and, in turn, help your clients complete this discovery process. This will put you both on the same page. Your clients have a lot at stake and will appreciate the small investment of time it takes for you and them to best know how to help them. The vast majority of clients will find it at least enlightening and often fun.

Why not begin right now – try our complimentary DNA Behavior Natural Discovery here.