During a session of Nitrogen's (formerly Riskalyze) annual conference, Daniel Crosby, chief behavioral officer at Orion Advisor Solutions, charted the long, sordid story of social progress to explain why today’s advisors should employ “human-first” thinking in their practices.
Crosby first defined human nature as “finicky,” “strange” and “irrational.”
“We tend to see patterns where none exist,” he said. “Understanding human nature is the source of your greatest business advantage.”
For most of human history, Crosby said, “we have been slugging it out” in the very bottom portions of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, fighting for food, water and shelter. In recent years, though, these needs have become much less of a worry for many in the developed world. This has left us with “a new class of problems.”
“As we have increasingly resolved the fundamentals … our problems have moved upstream,” he said. “Where we were once worried about bread, now we’re worried about belonging. Where we once worried about peace, now we’re worried about purpose.”
As a result, we have been wired to survive and thrive in a very different environment than we find ourselves in today, said Crosby. We live both in a time of unprecedented prosperity, but also of great displacement and confusion.
“Where we once had physical problems, we now have psychological and spiritual problems that are starting to make their way into our work as advisors,” he said.
Crosby said the epidemic of loneliness in our modern world means true relationships are harder to find, making them “priceless.”
“It has never in human history been easier to find answers and it has never been harder to find connection,” he said. “You are hired and retained for psychological and relational reasons. The work you do is incredibly impactful but the ceiling on its efficacy is the level at which we are connecting with our clients.”
The technical aspects of what advisors do are getting easier, a trend that artificial intelligence will only hasten, said Crosby.
“But people are hurting. They are looking for connection. They are looking for a trusted voice to navigate this new world order they find themselves in,” he said. “Taking a human-first approach can help solve some of the world’s thorniest problems.”
The problem, Crosby said, was that this answer seems “too simple” and as a result “we don’t have the eyes to see human-first thinking.”
“So many times we look just past the mark,” he said. “We think that complex problems need to have complex solutions and it’s simply not the case.”
Crosby made note of the work they had already done at Orion to employ this human-first approach. Orion's BeFi20 tool is a 20-question assessment, which generally takes under three minutes to complete. The result is a snapshot of how much clients worry about money, how they communicate around it and more. The personalized answers gleaned from this survey are being employed in the company’s AI technology.
“Knowing what we know about their personality allows us to personalize our reporting with AI,” he said.
Some other examples of human-first thinking advisors could use include sending paper instead of electronic invoices to increase trust, creating custom travel guides for clients, following clients’ children on Instagram so they could send gifts when they celebrated accomplishments and holding mental health seminars for clients.
“None of it’s expensive. None of it is complicated. All of it is enormously impactful,” he said. “The world has shifted. We are wealthier. We are healthier. We are better off than we have ever been as a human race. And … we are also very lost. As a result of this great financial wealth, but this spiritual, psychological and relational poverty, the role of your job will change. As advisors it is our gift, it is our blessing to be able to help people articulate their why.”