Understanding Client DNA Behavior Under Pressure

When I was a financial planner and even before that a CPA, I had regularly observed that people’s behavior and decision-making patterns changed when they were under pressure; the pressure often being caused by money and relationships. This observation was fundamental to my thinking when I was building the Financial DNA Discovery Process with my team. We wanted to know what a person’s natural instinctive behaviors are as this would be key to predicting how they would really behave when there were difficult times and/or difficult decisions had to be made.

This plays into the research we recently did of 100 advisors with AUM over $50million. 70% of them said that they were surprised by their clients reactions. Why? Well, it is the natural DNA behavior taking over based on genetics and our very early life experiences which shape the neural pathways in the brain. In the good times, we all operate out of learned behaviors based on experiences, education and values. Hence, we have a greater chance of managing our emotions in favor of rationality. Under pressure, that switches.

It was interesting to read the Wall Street Journal Article on Saturday April 4 by Jason Zweig titled: “Influence of DNA on Your Investing Style in Troubled Times”. Whilst different methodologies were used to discover this DNA behavior than we use, the conclusion is much the same. Zweig made the following point based on his own interview with Dr. Ahmid Hariri at the University of Philadelphia: “There is always a tug of war inside each of us between nature and nurture. But during scary times like these, says Dr. Hariri, “environmental stresses can play a critical role in unmasking any underlying biases determined by your genes.” In other words, bear markets give nature the upper hand. It is now harder than ever to stick to the disciplines that can override your genetic impulses, but it also has never been more important”.

So, now more than ever is the time to truly discover your client’s DNA behavior and help them from the inside-out to achieve higher financial life performance.

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