Bill Hortz's picture

" Identifying each person's financial personality regarding how that drives decision making, will reduce costly complaints." Leon Morales, DNA Behavior International

[The Institute for Innovation Development interview series invites innovation experts, innovative business leaders and emerging FinTech companies to talk to our readers about their latest innovation activities. The series seeks to learn from innovative business creators, uncover innovation best practices, and apply these insights into a financial services business model.

 We recently sat down with Leon Morales, Chief Relationship Officer of  DNA Behavior International, a robust technology platform designed for financial advisors which delivers practical and scalable behavioral intelligence solutions to “Know, Engage and Grow” their relationships with their clients and prospects.]


Hortz: In today’s environment, advisors need to go much deeper in applying the “know your customer” rule and in client engagement. How does DNA Behavior help advisors do that?

Morales: Per our research, every person inherently has, what we call, a unique Financial DNA® code representing their financial personality. A person's natural born DNA behavioral style shapes their financial personality -including risk taking - by their current environment, life experiences, values, and education. Their natural DNA Behavioral style remains stable over time and will drive how a person consistently responds to different events, thereby always influencing life and financial decision making. We have developed the tools necessary for advisors to help determine and manage their clients’ behavioral styles. It’s also important to point out that research shows that 93.6% of the financial planning process is the behavioral management of clients. [Research cited: Meir Statman, University of Santa Clara, California “The 93.6% Question of Financial Advisors,” Journal of Investing, Spring 2000].

Additionally, our compliance management program helps firms achieve a 99.75% level of suitability between the client’s goals, risk profile and the solutions offered. Currently, advisors are only 40% accurate in identifying their client’s risk profile. Our starting point is with a person’s natural instinctive behavior because that is where they are going to revert to when they are under pressure. Significantly, this approach reduces costly complaints placing advisors and firms in years of litigation.

Hortz: Does your FinTech platform help advisors address the DOL’s fiduciary ruling?

Morales: Yes. The DOL definition of a fiduciary demands that advisors act in the best interests of their clients, and to put their clients' interests above their own. The Financial DNA Discovery Process is the next generation of behavioral discovery capturing all dimensions of a client’s financial personality by utilizing the most academically sound psychometric systems. We strongly advocate this approach because it provides a more accurate measurement of who the client is and therefore the best starting point for any discussions about important life and financial decisions, and longer term education and development.

Further, the Financial DNA reporting system provides insights on how best to communicate, framing relevant information on the client's terms. These insights increase the client's chances of understanding the advice or recommendations and can reduce the impact of behavioral biases triggering irrational decision-making by both the client and the advisor.

Hortz: Talk about the power of questions! The 46 questions in your Financial DNA Natural Behavior questionnaire are fine-tuned enough to uncover such deep behavioral insights into your clients!? What have you determined as the accuracy of the tool?

Morales:  The Financial DNA Discovery System was independently validated to have a 91% reliability rating by Professors of Industrial Psychology at GeorgiaTech University and among many independent psychometric and business consultants each with 10+ years of related business and financial services industry experience.

Hortz: Can you share with us further about other key research which forms the base of your methodology and allows you to characterize it as “the world’s most reliable process” to reveal and engage clients?

Morales: Our proprietary Financial DNA Discovery Process has been developed and independently validated since 2001 by a highly qualified team with over 100 years of combined academic and practical behavioral discovery instrument development experience. Furthermore, DNA Behavior International has invested more than 60 years in the design of these systems and its programs.

To ensure a reliable prediction of behavior, the Forced Choice Scoring Model is the basis for Financial DNA Natural Behavior Discovery which is the first step in discovering the complete financial personality. It solves for dangerous voids in traditional risk profiling. Our view is that most of the traditional risk profiles use situational based questions, that is, the client could respond to the questions differently depending on any one (or a combination of) market or personal events, attitudes, feelings, perceptions or education.  Our methodologies go deeper into a more instinctive, automatic, hard-wired “Level 1” decision-making behavior. Daniel Kahneman the psychologist known for his extensive work in behavioral finance and decision making, details this "Level 1" automatic decision-making area in our brains as, when we are under pressure, where our "hard-wired" instincts will drive decision-making. So unless a client’s “Level 1” behavioral style is known, it is impossible to build a long-term portfolio, as it will be emotionally incompatible. So the questionnaire has to be designed to uncover this Level 1 behavior - free from personal or situational bias. The Financial DNA Discovery provides this Know Your Customer insight, and the validated results are accurate and constant over time.

It’s also important to understand that risk tolerance is only one dimension of a client's financial personality, and in fact, there are multiple elements of an investor’s overall "risk profile." There are several other behavioral finance factors necessary to fully understand the decision-making biases of both the client and advisor. Not communicating these biases only creates more risk – to the client/advisor relationship, decision-making, goal-setting and overall compliance. So, the risk discussion is not complete without knowing the client’s full set of behavioral biases and knowing how to communicate on the client’s terms.

Hortz: Besides having clients fill out the Financial DNA Natural Behavior questionnaire, you suggest that the advisor does so as well.  What benefits does that provide the advisor?

Morales: When an advisor is aware of their own bias, they are better able to offer advice that is in the best interests of the investor, in a fiduciary fashion. This client first approach is an increasing concern to financial regulators. With both client and advisor completing and sharing the Natural behavior discovery, it closes the knowledge gap between advisor/client.

Hortz: Tell us about your Certified Wealth Mentor training and how it differs from other advisor training programs?

Morales: Our Certified Wealth Mentor training program prepares advisors to become more equipped to guide and behaviorally manage the client on through the integrated ups and downs of the life and wealth creation journey. It teaches them to know, engage and grow different clients enabling them to deliver customized lifelong financial planning experiences for sustainable Financial Planning Performance. The DNA Behavioral training methodology is proven to enhance advisors ability to more confidently advise, mentor and coach clients to make improved life, financial and investment decisions based on their purpose. Further, our highly structured and tangible Financial Planning Performance Planning Process provides the platform for enabling advisors to charge higher retainer based advisory fees and increase profitability on a sustainable basis.

Hortz: What best advice would you give advisors in how best to work with clients in a fiduciary environment?

Morales:  All human beings have a financial personality which includes emotions that can erupt both positively and negatively when dealing with money. These emotions can manifest as over exuberance or fear. Both client and advisor need to understand the behavioral responses driving decision making. Without this mutual insight, every outcome of the financial planning process becomes a potential complaint. Identifying each person's financial personality regarding how that drives decision making, will reduce costly complaints.

This article was previously posted on Financial Advisor Magazine Online.


The Institute for Innovation Development is an educational and business development catalyst for growth-oriented financial advisors and financial services firms determined to lead their businesses in an operating environment of accelerating business and cultural change. We position our members with the necessary ongoing innovation resources and best practices to drive and facilitate their next-generation growth, differentiation and unique community engagement strategies. The institute was launched with the support and foresight of our founding sponsors - Pershing, Voya Financial, Ultimus Fund Solutions, Fidelity, and Charter Financial Publishing (publisher of Financial Advisor and Private Wealth magazines). For more information click here.


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