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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.

kim curtis identity interview

Identity Conversation with Hugh – Facilitator of Difficult Life Conversations

Have you ever wondered why smart people make bad investment mistakes? Or how can you work towards reaching financial independence?

In this identity interview, Hugh sits down with Kim Curtis. She is a personal finance expert, author of “Money Secrets” and Founder and CEO of The Wealth Legacy Institute, Inc.

With her rich background in negotiation and mediation, as well as legal and extensive financial education, she offers successful individuals and families a multi-disciplined approach to wealth management, investment management, and family dynamics.

Kim Curtis has been using our Wealth Mentoring Package. With 93.6% wealth management being about behavioral management, Kim has succeeded in leveraging the power of behavioral insights to facilitate life conversations with her clients. If you’re interested to learn more, start our 14-day free trial and see for yourself.

Take Fresh Look at Alignment of Career and Life Purpose

– First Published on Nasdaq –

Having a purpose in life that lines up with a chosen career is what many strive for and rarely achieve. Why is that?

Maybe it’s as simple as having allowed yourself to follow the career expectations of others, only to later find life experiences, wisdom, or an event (like a pandemic!) exposes cracks in the alignment between life purpose and chosen profession.

For many, the past year has caused them to take a hard look at their life purpose and ask the questions:

  • Why am I building wealth?
  • Is this my chosen career?
  • Why am I endeavoring to achieve the next promotion?
  • Why am I allowing life to hijack deeply held life goals and purpose?

Learning from the past

As I look back on my own journey, I often joke, saying I am a “reformed CPA,” but I seriously am. Having initially had a successful career as a chartered accountant in Sydney, Singapore and Thailand, and later in the financial services industry (running my own wealth management business), I always knew my career was more than about me conforming to a way of life.

That is, conforming to the script of have a good job, buy a house, invest and increase wealth. I think you get my point. But in reality, I always recognized something was missing.

My talents made me successful in my chosen careers but did not fulfill my passion, vision and values which I wanted to define and articulate in my life purpose.

I can’t say I was overly navel-gazing or looking for meaning in life; it was simply a deep belief that something more was going to be my career and purpose. The trouble was I didn’t know what.

Getting back to basics

I began to realize that if I wanted to discover my TIPS (talent, identity, purpose and significance) and get my career and life purpose aligned, I would have to do something about it myself. Hence the birth of DNA Behavior.

I recognized that using a behaviorally smart scientifically based discovery system I would be able to uncover areas of my TIPS that were not being recognized or used in my career – or toward my life purpose.

So, some 20+ years ago I founded the DNA Behavior business. It became clear to me that everyone should know and be able to share their unique “DNA style” with family, advisors, leaders, employees and clients. I knew that if everyone could share their unique style, the world would be a better place and careers would be chosen that lined up with living a quality life and inherent passions.

What I discovered and have spent the intervening years pursuing: My purpose and priorities lay in helping people the world over become more self-empowered through greater self-awareness. What I found is that I have a knack for discovering and making practical, unique behavioral insights, particularly in the still-new, still-underutilized field of behavioral finance. This is a much stronger calling for me than providing accounting and financial services, investments, and managing real estate.

The highly validated, scientifically based, structured approach to understanding behavioral insights for identifying talents, career paths and life purpose helped me discover my passion and now does the same for millions of people globally.

There is of course an irony – and a win-win – to the fact that my personal discovery and pursuit of that will enable the same for others. Of this I am doubly grateful.

And this is not a sales pitch; rather, it’s sharing an experience about discovering life purpose and making a career from that discovery.

Sometimes life intercedes

During the past year I have spent socially distant or remote time with countless people who are questioning many aspects of their lives. Now many are reviewing their career. Not because they have lost their job, but because they’ve had time to work from home with their family and have begun to “taste” a quality life.

They want to do life differently. They want to use technology to be able to have choices about where and when they work. Even more have commented on how successful conversations have become with their advisors as many financial advisors are themselves questioning their quality life.

One common theme in these conversations: It seems creating significant wealth is no longer their “true north,” not because they don’t want wealth but because they genuinely cannot find its purpose in their lives.

Wealth is great, but not at the sacrifice of life purpose. Why not have both?

Know yourself, then help clients do same

Discovering a life purpose that becomes a satisfying career needs to follow a well-defined approach that begins, not necessarily with qualifications, but with knowing self (talents, strengths and struggles). Focusing on those factors that reveal inherent behavior is crucial before setting personal life goals that enable you to take control of life in ways that optimize performance and happiness.

This approach to building a career based on life purpose is a strategy you can take to your clients as part of discussing financial planning and investment strategies, because many are searching for purpose and meaning. Even better if you lead the discussion with how you have rediscovered yourself, re-examined your goals and re-aligned key life facets like purpose and direction.

Do Investors See Value in Wealth Management? They should, and Here’s Why

Do Investors See Value in Wealth Management? They should, and Here’s Why 

The 2020 financial climate may have been the most tumultuous of its decade. However, one thing is sure, demand for wealth management continues to grow. Today’s investors are looking for a comprehensive approach from financial institutions that would guide them forward in this new normal.

The truth is, even in the middle of this pandemic-induced uncertainty and market volatility, executive wealth management decisions were still being made. If you believe that your investors may not see value in wealth management, here’s why they should.

Financial Institution Can Adopt the Model That Fits 

While you might think that the biggest struggle is to have a breakthrough with investors, and enrolling them in your financial planning systems, the real question is where do you take it from there? 

As a financial institution, you have the ability to design your systems and incorporate wealth management components into your practice. Which makes more sense for your investors as they tend to seek out a more holistic approach. 

You see, investors are looking to discuss their entire financial vision with their advisors. Their short term goal is obviously to make smart decisions and see a substantial return on their investment. Their ultimate goal however is none other than prosperity and financial wellness. 

Investors Are Looking for a Financial Wellness Roadmap 

The financial bigger picture has never been more relevant. The pandemic-induced market uncertainty has shaken investors’ confidence in their portfolios and challenged all their strategies. The type of financial institutions they are looking to work with are those able to offer them some clarity and insight into their financial wellness roadmap.

Whilst the unpredictability of the stock market can challenge that concept, it’s all about the relationship your advisors foster with their clients. Here at DNA Behavior we believe that advisors should constantly engage their investors in discussions relevant to them, or risk losing them. 

Wealth Management also Means Behavior Management

You might be asking yourself is it our role to help investors get the maximum profit? Or to manage their behavior?

We believe that wealth management and financial planning risks are at the sum of human behavior (investors and advisors) and market risks. Our whole Financial DNA program for investors and advisors has been predicated on this. Whilst the market itself cannot be managed by an investor, their reaction to it can be. Which comes back to human behavior management. 

75% or more of your role is to save investors from themselves by helping manage their behavior. This involves educating, guiding, coaching and empowering them. What we call “Wealth Mentoring”. 

By adopting this approach you will be helping your investors obtain superior returns which far outweigh any level of fees they are being charged. The reality is that the key to successful investment is managing behavior. Wealth mentoring has the ability of transforming the investor-experience and enhance value.

Taking the Mystery Out of Investor Behavior

As we all know wealth mentoring entails helping your clients achieve greater financial goals. You provide them with guidance and assistance that unlocks their full potential, manages their emotions, and allows them to live with meaning. Which raises 2 questions: what is your role in advising clients? Is it to help them manage their behavior or to get the highest maximum performance?

I have always said that financial planning risks are the sum of human behavioral risks (client and advisor) and market risks. Our whole Financial DNA program for investors and advisors has been predicated on this. Whilst the market itself cannot be managed by a client their reaction to it can be which comes back to human behavior management. There is university research which shows that 5% of a person’s wealth comes from their investments and 95% from their behavior.

I do believe 75% or more of our role is to save clients from themselves by helping manage their behavior. This involves educating, guiding, coaching and empowering them. What we call “Wealth Mentoring”. By adopting this approach you will be helping your clients obtain superior returns which far out weigh any level of fees that you can charge. The reality is that the key to successful investment is managing behavior.

Wealth Mentoring Transforms the Client Experience and Enhances Value

For the Wealth Mentoring approach to be successful the advisor must transform the client experience they provide. The client needs to experience the feeling that their life is more than money, their money has been humanized, a sense of improved relationships, discovery of life purpose and meaning, and finally a tailored portfolio built from the inside out. Then there must be an ongoing development experience involving wise counsel with the client knowing they have an improved quality life. Understanding their behavioral style and preferences is fundamental to all of this. Behavior shapes life decisions which in turn influence financial decisions. The linkage is very close.

Importantly, the value proposition to the client needs to be communicated. There are many tangible and intangible benefits of this approach. Research shows average mutual fund investors will over a 20 year period do themselves out of nearly 60% of the return produced by the average equity mutual fund. This means the average investor will significantly underperform the market and his own investments. So, if the average mutual fund return over the last 20 years is 10.81% and the average equity fund investor has averaged 4.48% then there is a 6.33% difference which represents the cost of not having a good planner. Hence a financial planner charging fees of 1% per annum and/or a retainer is very good value.

What is great is that now we have turbulent times lots of other leading commentators are coming out of the woodwork and giving this message loud and clear. We are at the start of a cultural revolution in the role of advisors in financial planning and the investors attitude to it. A revolution that is client centered and one from which everyone who plays the right game of managing behavior will be big winners. The philosophy of Understanding People before Numbers is here to stay.

The Advisors Value Proposition of a Wealth Mentoring Approach

We have recently performed a research of 100 advisors with AUM over $50m. The conclusion is that far more client discovery could be performed and there is plenty of scope to introduce more fee based services which address the life of the client.

In my view what is ever good for the client will generally be good for the advisor in the long run. Lets look at why a behavioral “wealth mentoring” approach is good for the advisor’s bottom line let alone the credibility of their financial planning process and business.

The ROI for an advisor of adopting a systemized behavioral approach is driven by the ability to aid advisors in:

1. increasing client acquisition rates
2. increasing wallet-share among existing clients
3. providing the justification for higher advice fees
4. increasing client retention rates
5. improving advisor productivity
6. increasing the business value.

Advisors who integrate a behavioral system into their practices find that they achieve these ROI goals by:

1. Establishing trust more rapidly with prospective clients through anticipating their communication, investment, and lifestyle needs

2. Gathering more assets from existing clients by positioning themselves as the client’s trusted advisor. Wealth mentoring facilitates client interactions that go well beyond investments and provides the basis for a deeper relationship with each client.

3. Supporting higher planning and advice fees through the offer of a powerful discovery process. Financial advisors may also use client centered systems to add new revenue generating services such as couple or family facilitation, executive life balance programs etc.

4. Improving relationships with problem clients. Advisors often struggle with a segment of their clients because their natural behaviors differ greatly with those of the advisor. While advisors may keep these relationships in good times, rocky markets require more careful facilitation to help clients feel understood.

5. Advisor productivity increases because once you know the behavior of the client it is easier and quicker to identify their needs, manage them and keep them committed to a plan. Alot of time can get burned for an advisor dealing with client changes and problems after year 1 which could have been addressed up-front.

6. Greater documentation of who the client is enables relationships to be transferred to other people within the practice and also when it is sold. This has a very positive impact on business value.

In terms of metrics, here is what we base the wealth mentoring value proposition on:

1. We have seen trends that advisors who adopt a client centred methodology are increasing their gross asset under management revenues by 25% or more per annum from new clients. Further, we are seeing them increase their fee for service revenues by 15% or more per annum. Also, there is enhanced client retention. Of course success from using any system is also up to the effort of the advisor.

We believe it is possible in respect of an average practice to help the principal advisor double their net take home profit over a 4 year period. This is achieved from segmenting the client base so it is fundamentally more productive and building the AUM and fee for service revenues from the top 100 or so clients. This is a substantial return on investment from our costs and the coaching cost.

2. From point 1, there is the ongoing business benefit that the increased revenues and profits translate to increased business value on sale. What we have also seen is that the behavioral data enables greater transferability of clients which is fundamental to the business value as revenue and profit sustainability post the sale are fundamental to the value.

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….