Written by: Leon Morales
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?
No more cookie-cutter clients
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.