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  • Home>Practice Management>Practice Builder>Client Personalities and Behavioral Bias

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    Client Personalities and Behavioral Bias

    Identifying your clients' personality-related biases can help you maintain a successful and productive professional relationship.

    Justin A. Reckers and Robert A. Simon, 05/17/2012

    In our last article, we discussed the concept of personality and what personality is. We described personality as the "consistent, enduring, predictable manner of behaving, experiencing, and interacting with others and with the world."

    We described how, when forming relationships with clients and establishing trust and rapport, it is important to be aware of the client's personality. This is because an individual's personality will give us vital guidance to his or her psychological needs, behavioral patterns, and the way in which emotion interacts with that individual's cognitive activity (thinking).

    By having insight into these aspects of a client, you will be more likely to establish and maintain a successful and productive professional relationship that allows you to succeed. Knowing your client's personality style can help you identify the cognitive distortions that are most likely at play for the individual. And, as we've been stating, knowing the distortions gives you insight into the "client mind."

    In our previous article, we described several different conceptual systems for classifying personality. So let us return to the four continua of personality that underlie the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator:

    --Extraversion v. Introversion
    --Sensing v. Intuition
    --Thinking v. Feeling
    --Judging v. Perceiving

    (Note: There are no automatic applications of a particular Myers-Briggs type to the cognitive biases we have discussed. The following discussion is intended to illustrate ways in which you can begin to hypothesize which biases are most likely to be observed in a client. Of course, actual experience/interactions with your client will give you the information that will make you able to more accurately assess the biases that operate in a given client.)

    Individuals occupying a more extroverted position would be outgoing and relatively less inhibited in their interactions with others. Such individuals are often gregarious and confident and prone to believing in themselves--at times overly so. These individuals may be using active/emotional biases such as the Overconfidence Bias and the Illusion of Control Bias. These clients may be the ones who remind you they are smart enough to do your job and rationalize they need your help because they just don't have the time with all of the other important things on their plate.

    On the other hand, more introverted individuals can be shy and inhibited, and may have tendencies toward self-doubt and reliance on others. You might hypothesize that such individuals are more prone to use the Status Quo Bias or the Framing Effect. These clients will thank you every time you pick up the phone to call with an update or send them an e-mail. These individuals appreciate knowing that you are thinking about them but may not pick up the phone to make sure you are.

    Justin A. Reckers, CFP, CDFA, AIF is director of financial planning at Pacific Wealth Management www.pacwealth.com and managing director of Pacific Divorce Management, LLC www.pacdivorce.com, in San Diego.

    Robert A. Simon, Ph.D. www.dr-simon.com is a forensic psychologist, trial consultant, expert witness, and alternative dispute resolution specialist based in Del Mar, Calif.

    The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.