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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.

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?

Regenerating Life Purpose Through Health and Recreation

– First Published on Nasdaq –

Those who know me know that I am goal driven and that I take the initiative and accept challenges, yet think matters through. Above all else, they know I can usually ask the tough questions – perhaps those others are only thinking.

Further, my friends see how I can sacrifice a balanced life and can be overly dynamic. Trust me, I’m like a dog with a bone when something troubles me; I can’t let it go.

This season of lock down and isolation has really caused me – like so many others – to question the purpose in my life. We need to understand and believe that life is meaningful and goal directed, and this forced respite is an optimal time to reflect on such.

For the first few weeks of isolation, I focused on “catching up.” Doing the many jobs I’d let slide. Getting back to finishing writing my book. But when catch up was complete – what next?

Back to crucial basics

Like so many others, I wanted to know that my life made sense. Then it came to me through my son. A greater sense of purpose and meaning in life is also associated with better physical and mental health activity. So, I decided to get both of us onto the golf course.

This healthy recreational activity renewed my daily purpose (yes, I still had companies to run), but teaching him to play became a buffer against stress. It mellowed me when having to face business challenges and showed the way to the importance and linkage between life purpose and healthy recreation.

After all, none other than Ralph Waldo Emerson reminded us that, “the first wealth is health.”

As a driven and competitive individual, other things became secondary to helping my young son learn the art of golf. I could feel balance restored in my life. I began to understand the importance of approaching health and recreation not from that of a competitor, but from the incredible sense of well-being I achieved simply by putting a golf ball.

Finding a ‘regeneration moment’

This renewed approach to creating a healthier life increased my personal sense of life purpose. It drove me to encourage my work colleagues to focus on health and recreation knowing that it would change all our lives for the better.

It’s been so interesting to sit back and listen to my team as they discuss business and strategies and I realize how much richer the conversations are, how motivated they are (even after nearly a year of not being in the same room) and the increase of energy and passion.

Sports may have been how I expressed myself and restored life purpose. But maybe your life purpose “regeneration moment” could be writing, painting, playing music, meditation, cooking, walking or…? It’s important to know a) that health and recreation requires investment, b) a sense of purpose often develops from having meaningful connections to others, and c) your mental health needs an outlet.

Influencing and shaping

One of my team members who is a prolific reader has joined a book club. They meet (social distancing observed) and discuss a common book they are reading as well as a book on a subject matter they are passionate about.

She was telling me how stimulating it was to discuss the latest novel the group was reading – and how she really came to life talking about her passion, which is understanding behaviors. From my perspective, her confidence has increased (on our weekly Zoom calls), her contribution has been amplified (she’s naturally reserved), and she has a renewed focus on the importance of paying attention to health and recreation and how this could influence behavior and shape life goals.

So, here’s my question: How is your life purpose? Could investing more time into your health and recreation guide and inform better life decisions and provide an increased sense of direction and increase your wealth? It’s a conversation worth having. With yourself and with others.

In the meantime, see you on the golf course!

Sow Into Others Lives and Grow Your Own

Last week a colleague of mine sent me the following quote:


Every time you build into the life of another person, you launch a process that will never end. ? Howard Hendricks

This quote has a very powerful message which I feel all of us should think about and action.

You do not necessarily need to be a wealth mentor or a life coach to help others build their lives. Although, this level of focused training and the personal development coming with it will help you have enormous impact.

Regardless, of what you are doing in your life or where you are at, helping others in some way to build their lives will be a powerful experience for them and for you. You can do this as simply as asking them a great question, being curious about them, going for a walk or doing an activity together, sharing a story, writing an article that gets published to the masses or delivering a workshop. There are many ways to impart your wisdom and life experiences.

Think about what might happen if you help somebody else grow in their lives. They will remember the moment, become more empowered and ultimately want to help many others. They will do it subconsciously any way because of their own growth, but even better if it is intentionally done.

In essence, by helping others grow and build their lives you will be part of a movement which will have amazing and never ending impact.

In recent times, I have become a lot more intentional about helping others of all ages through helping them discover their life purpose. I have found that when people discover their life purpose they want to share the experience with others. What is your life purpose? How could you help other people grow in their lives?