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Looking For The Behaviors In Clients’ Decisions

Hugh Massie (executive chairman and founder of DNA Behavior and award-winning author) is known as a money energy pioneer, high-stakes decision orchestrator and behavioral finance trailblazer.

Russ Alan Prince: What is the DNA Behavior? 

Hugh Massie: Just over 25 years ago, I considered myself a successful accounting professional and left that world to set up a wealth management business in Sydney, Australia—providing holistic financial life planning for a diverse group of families with varying wealth needs and business interests. 

Very quickly, the financial advice became second to a more significant and concerning issue—my clients’ behaviors. So often, their decisions were unpredictable, their emotions reactionary and biased led. Even clients I thought of as balanced in their business dealings became unpredictable regarding discussions around money.

It became clear that the energetic pressure associated with money reverted many clients to some form of inherent “hard-wired” behavior. Once I had this revelation, I addressed the client’s relationship with money rather than pure advice. 

As my knowledge of behaviors and responses to money grew, I realized my passion was helping people globally become financially self-empowered through higher money consciousness. This revelation led to the birth of DNA Behavior in April 2001 as The Behavior and Money Insights Company. 

That was when I said to a colleague, “I have to build a scalable system that delivers behavioral talents, biases and money insights at the touch of a button; we have to be able to know and understand in advance how clients are going to uniquely earn, save, invest, give and talk about money. This can’t be just about their investment risk tolerance; we need to understand their reactions to life and financial events, what life experiences have taught them, and how they can be managed.”

At the beginning of my mission, I undertook 40 flights between Sydney and Atlanta to work with independent subject matter experts who could help us scientifically validate over 4000 behavior and money insights with 97.1% reliability. 

Today, these insights form the basis of the Financial DNA® Discovery Process used by advisors with clients. 

Prince: How do wealth managers benefit from the DNA Behavior Systems? 

Massie: Our systems have two important purposes. The first is for wealth advisors, team members and other professionals serving clients to know their unique behavioral talents, communication styles and perspectives on money. Secondly, the clients and their families must undertake Financial DNA Discovery for all the same reasons. This helps establish trust among all those involved and ensures optimal solutions are developed from a mutually balanced and objective standpoint.

A story about the Jones Family seeking to create a family continuity plan may help to explain the benefits of using Financial DNA with affluent families. In this situation, with her husband Tom, Kathy Jones received a large inheritance and requested help to review their family’s long-term succession planning and wills. 

The family’s situation was highly complex due to their various assets, which included a family business, homes, real estate and shares. In addition, their three adult children—Elizabeth, Eric and Christina—have different involvement levels, needs, aspirations, capabilities and knowledge. Tom and Kathy soon realized that if their succession plan was to be successful, they required more than an estate plan and will if the different perspectives and expectations were to be effectively managed.

I established the need for family meetings with open communication, starting with Tom, Kathy and their three children completing a 10-minute Financial DNA Behavior Discovery online to get objective results on their financial behaviors and decision-making styles, which are often unknown to themselves and the family unit. 

It is no real surprise that the family members had very different financial behaviors, even if they come from the same home with similar opportunities:

  • Tom was an initiator who liked to control, be bold, opportunistic and enjoy life experiences.
  • Kathy was a reflective thinker who was analytical, calculated and worried about not having enough wealth.
  • Elizabeth was an influencer with a unique blend of vision, generosity, and desire for impact. 
  • Eric was a facilitator looking for security, family stability and harmony. 
  • Christina was an engager who enjoyed meeting people, having fun and spending. 

Armed with the Financial DNA results, I was well-prepared to facilitate a level playing pitch family meeting to prevent those behavioral differences from driving a wedge between kin.

In the end, a more robust family continuity plan was drafted, reflecting the family’s behaviors, motivations, desires, values, goals, strategies and governance needs. Not only did this process help my clients build better relationships with money, it resulted in better ongoing client relationships. 

Prince: What is the Future of DNA Behavior? 

Massie: Considering research shows about 94% of financial planning is behavioral management of the client and only about 6% is portfolio management, the use of Financial DNA has a clear value-added role to play in serving wealth management clients.

An aspect that has been silent so far is the quietly powerful energetic force of money on every part of people’s lives causing stress, even for the wealthy. Given the enormous impact of stress, we expect happiness and health to become the new wealth. Therefore, in the future, DNA Behavior will be helping advisors to provide even more tailored life and financial advice, which taps into a client’s “Money Energy.” 

The term Money Energy may sound like some new fad. Still, DNA Behavior has developed a scientific and proven formula from 23 years of work serving over 2 million people a year to measure what has otherwise been invisible and, therefore, not manageable. With this research, we have enhanced our systems to help advisors amplify the energetic flow of money in the lives of their clients to increase happiness, success, and health for longer. As a result, there are more data points, and the capability and comfort for holding money conversations will be improved. 

In the future, we expect to see the longevity trajectory of people’s lives and finances permanently changed. 

Russ Alan Princeis the executive director of Private Wealth magazine and chief content officer for High-Net-Worth Genius. He consults with family offices, the wealthy, fast-tracking entrepreneurs and select professionals.


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