Michael Liersch is leading the charge to translate behavioral finance research into tools that help investors make better money decisions.
As head of behavioral finance for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, he's developed a 27-question personality assessment for clients to help advisers start new conversations based on clients' deep-seeded concerns about money.
For example, the assessment may help an adviser know whether to encourage clients to give away their wealth during their lifetime or help them create a legacy, he said.
"I work with advisers every day, if not every hour," said Mr. Liersch, who works about 60 hours a week. "I want to help them make investing personally meaningful for clients."
He encourages advisers to initiate conversations with clients about meeting personal goals, not asset growth.
Mr. Liersch, formerly with Barclays Wealth, joined Merrill Lynch in 2011. He has a doctorate in cognitive psychology from the University of California, San Diego, and once considered a life in academia. But he believed behavioral finance research had gotten to a point where it was time to make it work to improve actual financial decision making.
"The research had seemed to go untranslated in financial services," he said.
Mr. Liersch, who is married and has one daughter, said at heart he still appreciates the value that understanding behavior and biases can bring to the lives of investors.
"I love data and I love research," he said. "There's nothing more powerful than asking the right questions, collecting the data and helping humans get to a better place."
— Liz Skinner
President, Concentric Private Wealth