I had the pleasure of interviewing Hugh Massie, CEO & Founder of DNA Behavior International, and a global pioneer in the practical application of behavioral science. Hugh and his team transform businesses through behavioral data and technology, creating customized experiences for employees and clients, especially focusing on the financial sector, from mid-sized financial advisory firms to fund managers to major international banks to government agencies. Their solutions have impacted more than 1.5 million people/year in 125 countries and 11 languages, including leaders 2,500+ businesses and 20,000 financial advisors who are now behaviorally smarter.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I like to say I am a recovering CPA. At age 30 I branched out on my own. I already knew I had the entrepreneurial and pioneering spirit; I set up a financial services business to work with high-net-worth families. A few years into that, I realized I wasn’t as satisfied dealing with the money side of all that. I was more interested in the human dynamics. I wanted to know what made my clients tick, but also what made me tick. Eventually I realized I wanted to help people all over the world become more self-empowered. That’s what took me into the human behavioral journey. Not teaching them stocks or bonds but teaching people about themselves. So, I went on the journey of building my own system to uncover this. And here I am with a great (Atlanta-based) international team, helping people and businesses use behavioral data and tech to improve.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Since starting (leading) the company the person who has benefited the most from our DNA Behavior systems is me. Every interaction I have had with people (whether employees or clients) and decision I have had to make has enhanced my self-awareness in some way. I have really seen how strong my pioneering (competitive drive) and risk taking are, along with my resilience which has come from being extremely fast-paced and logical. Interestingly, when I look at my team there are huge differences in the extremities of my own DNA style which has generally been good for growing the business. Then, when I look at the clients I am better at dealing with they tend to be similar in style to me and other entrepreneurs.

What do you think makes your company stand out during these disruptive times? Can you share a story?

There are two key driving forces for us right now which position us to be the “behavioral chip” that powers solutions in two ways. For one, there is unprecedented demand for customized experiences: The end user out there (e.g. investor client or employee) wants to feel understood and connected with a customized experience delivered to them. Businesses have gotten to the Innovation 2.0 level, which is smarter technology to make the experience slick and user friendly. However, Innovation 3.0 is where the game will get played out when data and technology are used to enable the business to serve each client uniquely based on knowing who they are. Likewise, more business leaders recognize the power of behavioral insights based on validated personality traits rather than simply the use of demographic-based personas, which can leave two very different people being treated as the same. The new world leaders are prepared to design solutions which leverage this. Our data and tech solutions are adaptable and scalable and can be delivered in various ways, so we’re poised to help others advance in both those areas.

Can you share what you believe will be the “Top 5 Fintech and Banking Trends Over The Next 3 Years”

There are a number of trends that we will see over the next 3 years, all of which will be enhanced by baking in behavioral finance to the wealth management model. Behavioral Finance was being talked about in the 1970s, and the whole subject came into prominence in 2002 when Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for his work on Prospect Theory. Since then, the application of behavioral insights has been gaining momentum. With the financial sector under greater scrutiny, many of its leaders are ready to move beyond traditional risk profiling which provides single measurement. They understand that the whole financial personality (what we call the Financial DNA) of the client in terms of how they make decisions based on their biases, set goals, spend money, take risks and manage information flows needs to be understood.

  1. Customization of the client experience from the first point of engagement through the client lifecycle through online and offline communications aligned to the client’s style;
  2. A more standardized client on boarding process across the whole firm which includes deeper and better data capture about the client so that there will be a more pinpointed planning process;
  3. Enhancement of the digital collaboration experience between advisors and clients, including the use of robotic processes and artificial intelligence;
  4. Prioritization of data management to improve intelligence and analytics so Big Data is converted to Little Data enabling unique experiences to be offered
  5. Enhanced use of technologies for monitoring the behavior of advisors and the suitability of solutions offered, and overall improve reporting.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

Designing the pathway forward is much easier when there is clarity on the passion .

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement I believe we are in the midst of creating is “understanding people before numbers.” If we can help other leaders have an a-ha moment like I have had, developing a heightened self-awareness of my strengths and struggles, they can have the greatest impact on others and minimize negative impacts. At the crux of this is convincing those leaders to experience the results when you leverage a validated behavioral data and technology tool, and to then apply such across their organizations. I love seeing a client or business partner have an a-ha moment when they begin enjoying the fruits of the practical application of behavioral science in action. If we continue our passion in pursuing the understanding people before numbers movement business will be conducted in a so much more positive, engaging and productive way. More people will be able to have impact.

Originally published at medium.com


  • Breana Patel

    Founder and CEO Bonova Advisory- Risk and Regulatory Advisory ?

    Founder of Bonova Advisory that specializes in helping companies navigate complex Regulatory, Risk and Operational Environments. Industry expert in Banking Regulations, Enterprise Risk Management and Technology disruptions via RPA, AI and Blockchain. I write on evolving Financial eco systems in this 4th Industrial Revolution