Gediminas Rickevičius, VP of Global Partnerships at Oxylabs.io
Retail investors play an interesting role in the markets at large. For one, most academic researchers and hedge fund managers significantly downplay the importance of their everyday counterparts due to underperformance.
On the other hand, there has been a surge in the amount of retail investors since 2020. Investing has been made much more accessible and available to everyday folk. Combined with the global pandemic, these factors led to retail investors’ share of total equities trading volume now being close to 25%. Finally, there seems to be a push towards opening up private markets to more participants, as evidenced by EY research.
If such a trend continues, a massive influx of retail investors might increase the influence of their actions on the market. It might seem like a headache to seasoned veterans, but in many cases it might be a boon.
Retail investors provide cushion
As is often the case with many things in life, retail investors are seen through somewhat of a mythical lens. If one were to ask what event would define them, that answer would probably be the GameStop debacle.
It was certainly a visible and emotionally charged event that seemed to have everything you’d expect from a retail investor. Most people sought huge speculative gains through short-term trading without having access to tools that would enable such high frequency endeavors.
Additionally, some invested obscene amounts of capital, “leveraging” what they could. Often those were personal or spending loans. Some liquidated other investments to gain additional funds for the speculative play.
In the end, the event had all the hallmarks of everyone’s preconceived notions of retail investors. They were highly speculative, emotional, and chased significant gains. So, it would seem that would transfer over to other areas of investing.
Yet, some research would state otherwise, making retail investors highly useful to the market. As mentioned previously, they have begun to play a more significant role due to the increasing availability of investing.
A recent study has indicated that retail investors might be providing stability in times of market swings and crashes. COVID’s exogenous shock to the markets caused prices to tumble, but it was offset, by some margin, through the funds of retail investors.
Additionally, stabilization happens through providing additional liquidity to certain stocks. Finally, while they may seem contrarian as they pick stocks of which institutional investors think less, even if the contrarianism were true, it would still provide liquidity to stocks, which have less of it. In the end, retail investors play an important role in markets, especially during times of turmoil.
Retail investors talk (a lot)
Convincing someone to give up their investment strategy with all the data and potential software might be a little difficult. It’s a business that entirely revolves around knowledge intended to beat everyone else. Data and strategy sit at the core of investing.
As a result, outside of pure academical theory, any investment strategy is a closely guarded secret for institutional investors. Retail investors, on the other hand, are not quite the same. Many of them participate in various internet forums as a way of talking about strategy.
You can often find anything, ranging from simple investment advice (usually, ironically preceded by the saying “not financial advice”) to long posts discussing why some companies might be undervalued or overvalued.
Additionally, they are often posted in public forums where, while anonymous, posts are rated according to popularity. It would hold to reason then that such posts would have more sway over other retail investors. As a result, tracking large masses of small investments becomes an easier task.
Collecting such data, however, can be quite challenging. For one, there are places where retail investors congregate, but even then, there are a ton of posts going through them every day, making manual collection inefficient.
Couple that with the fact that sentiments expressed and overall influence can differ, and collecting such data for investment purposes nears to zero ROI or below. Fortunately, automated data collection methods have been developed.
Web scraping can be utilized whenever public data from the internet needs to be gathered at a large enough scale. There are plenty of solution providers online that can build complete out-of-the-box solutions that would make the collection of such semantic data easy.
An important caveat is that even with automated public data collection, everything gathered would be semantic. There would be sentences and paragraphs expressing some sort of sentiment, which might not be immediately obvious, and have an effect that is also shrouded in mystery.
One way to calculate influence is to look for raw ticker mention volume. Quiver Quantitative has done exactly that for a certain piece of Reddit. There’s value to be found, however, pure volume likely only weakly correlates with investments.
It is entirely possible that a majority of such mentions are hidden deep in posts and comments no one ever sees. Only the crawler bot captures them, because it goes through absolutely everything. As a result, it can produce signals that miss the mark.
As scraping can collect any aspect of the data stored within the page, extracting popularity indicators and adding them to the ticker calculations would produce more accurate estimations of how impactful the mention would be.
Finally, sentiment is an important piece of the puzzle. Luckily, we don’t have to build customized machine learning models to extract sentiment. Google’s Natural Language AI and many other tools have already been developed that can serve our purposes just fine.
Combining these three factors with the general talkativeness of the retail investor can give us fairly accurate insight into the inner movements of capital from them. Whether these can serve as a separate investment strategy or enhance current ones, it is something for those who track such data to decide.
Wealth Managers and the Future of Trust: Insights from CFA Institute’s 2022 Investor Trust Study
Author: Rhodri Preece, CFA, Senior Head of Research, CFA Institute
Corporate responsibility is more important than ever. Today, many investors expect more than just profit from their financial decisions; they want easy access to financial products and to be able to express personal values through their investments. Crucial to meeting these new investor expectations is trust in the financial services providers that enable investors to build wealth and realise personal goals. Trust is the bedrock of client relationships and investor confidence.
The 2022 CFA Institute Investor Trust Study – the fifth in a biennial series – found that trust levels in financial services among retail and institutional investors have reached an all-time high. Reflecting the views of 3,588 retail investors and 976 institutional investors across 15 markets globally, the report is a barometer of sentiment and an encouraging indicator of the trust gains in financial services.
Wealth managers may want to know how this trust can be cultivated, and how they can enhance it within their own organisations. I outline three key trends that will shape the future of client trust.
THE RISE OF ESG
ESG metrics have risen to prominence in recent years, as investors increasingly look at environmental, social and governance factors when assessing risks and opportunities. These metrics have an impact on investor confidence and their propensity to invest; we find that among retail investors, 31% expect ESG investing to result in higher risk-adjusted returns, while 44% are primarily motivated to invest in ESG strategies because they want to express personal values or invest in companies that have a positive impact on society or the environment.
The Trust Study shows us that ESG is stimulating confidence more broadly. Of those surveyed, 78% of institutional investors said the growth of ESG strategies had improved their trust in financial services. 100% of this group expressed an interest in ESG investing strategies, as did 77% of retail investors.
There are also different priorities within ESG strategies, and our study found a clear divide between which issues were top of mind for retail investors compared to institutional investors. Retail investors were more focused on investments that tackled climate change and clean energy use, while institutional investors placed a greater focus on data protection and privacy, and sustainable supply chain management.
What is clear is that the rise of ESG investing is building trust and creating opportunities for new products.
TECHNOLOGY MULTIPLIES TRUST
Technology has the power to democratise finance. In financial services, technological developments have lowered costs and increased access to markets, thereby levelling the playing field. Allowing easy monitoring of investments, digital platforms and apps are empowering more people than ever to engage in investing. For wealth managers, these digital advancements mean an opportunity for improved connection and communication with investors, a strategy that also enhances trust.
The study shows us that the benefits of technology are being felt, with 50% of retail investors and 87% of institutional investors expressing that increased use of technology increases trust in their financial advisers and asset managers, respectively. Technology is also leading to enhanced transparency, with the majority of retail and institutional investors believing that their adviser or investment firms are very transparent.
It’s worth acknowledging here that a taste for technology-based investing varies across age groups. More than 70% of millennials expressed a preference for technology tools to help navigate their investment strategy over a human advisor. Of the over-65s surveyed, however, just 30% expressed the same choice.
THE PULL OF PERSONALISATION
How does an investor’s personal connection to their investments manifest? There are two primary ways. The first is to have an adviser who understands you personally, the second is to have investments that achieve your personal objectives and resonate with what you value.
Among retail investors surveyed for the study, 78% expressed a desire for personalised products or services to help them meet their investing needs. Of these, 68% said they’d pay higher fees for this service.
So, what does personalisation actually look like? The study identifies the top three products of interest among retail investors. They are: direct indexing (investment indexes that are tailored to specific needs); impact funds (those that allow investors to pursue strategies designed to achieve specific real-world outcomes); and personalised research (customised for each investor).
When it comes to this last product, it’s worth noting that choosing advisors with shared values is also becoming more significant. Three-quarters of respondents to the survey said having an adviser that shares one’s values is at least somewhat important to them. Another way a personal connection with clients can be established is through a strong brand, and the proportion of retail investors favouring a brand they can trust over individuals they can count on continues to grow; it reached 55% in the 2022 survey, up from 51% in 2020 and 33% in 2016.
TRUST IN THE FUTURE
As the pressure on corporations to demonstrate their trustworthiness increases, investors will also look to financial services to bolster trust. Wealth managers that embrace ESG issues and preferences, enhanced technology tools, and personalisation, can demonstrate their value and build durable client relationships over market cycles.
The customer expectations driving insurance change
Carl Strempel, CFO and co-founder, Imburse
Customer expectations are continuously evolving, with simplicity and speed a significant priority in the current market. These expectations have been driven primarily by well-executed technology advancements in eCommerce. For example, many eCommerce platforms allow for instant payment and transparent tracking and delivery. Customers also have the option of availing of a chatbot, allowing for problems and issues to be solved quicker than relying on telephone customer support.
The best examples of these customer engagement solutions are integrated across multiple channels so that customers can switch from the chat-bot to a phone call to an email seamlessly, with the context and conversation retained. Companies and providers understand that there is nothing more frustrating for customers than having to explain the issue multiple times to multiple service representatives.
Customer expectations are continuously changing as mobile technology continues to make advancements. The growing prevalence of super apps that can do it all, from booking food deliveries to ordering taxis, is massively impacting customer expectations. These enhanced offerings mean that individuals are now also expecting this level of detail and personalisation from banks and insurers. Whether buying personal insurance for yourself or your family, or a CFO or risk manager purchasing commercial insurance for a business, customer expectations are rising. There is no longer an excuse for insurers to deliver a poor customer experience.
Insurers, especially in the retail and SME business, have scrambled to overhaul their customer experiences to meet modern consumers’ demands. For example, if an insurance company cannot turn around a quote for a comparison website within a few seconds, they won’t win any business. In fact, if they are not in the top three quotes with a competitive price, they are most likely irrelevant.
As a result, insurers need to think about their technology stack and how they can deliver the best possible experiences for their customers, to generate sales and improve retention. In this case, real-time API integrations into comparison websites.
Other areas of innovation are the ongoing migration to the cloud, which allows for the building of scalability and resilience in insurance carriers, as well as enabling technologies such as document ingestion, workflow automation, A.I., and payments technology delivering a better customer experience with a reduced Total Cost of Ownership for the enterprise.
First and foremost, insurance companies need to understand their customers and how they expect insurance interactions to be delivered. Following this, a technology strategy must be formed to enable them to deliver in an agile way. Being agile is significant because customers’ expectations evolve over time, and technology also changes. As a result, insurers need to understand their customers and be able to deploy relevant technologies in an appropriate time frame to meet demands.
Many insurance providers partner with innovative technology companies to deliver solutions that will support the needs of the end customer. By offering relevant payment checkout experiences, similar to those by large eCommerce platforms, insurers can increase their top line and keep more customers satisfied. Insurers can further reduce payment site costs by using external partners to manage integrations with the global payment ecosystem. This makes the configuration of payments more cost-effective and quicker than what existing IT integrations allow for. This technology can deliver a 90 percent saving on payment integration and configuration.
The advantages of technology in the insurance industry are clear. Technology enables insurers to improve coverage for customers, enhance customer experience, reduce costs and improve product-market fit. There are several new insurance business models being deployed, including embedded insurance, parametric insurance, and soon “open insurance,” which are all designed to make the customer experience more seamless and provide the right cover at the right time. When deployed in the right way, technology is a critical enabler for insurers to deliver to their customers and avoid becoming irrelevant capacity providers.
There are numerous opportunities for insurers to embrace innovation in the industry. The challenges with enterprise payments, however, are primarily transforming traditional IT systems, and maintaining multiple IT integrations with different payment technologies and providers. The impact is not only on top-line income and bottom-line costs, but inadequate payment capability also inhibits insurance innovation. Payments need to meet the needs of the modern consumer and the insurance product. These are the barriers preventing insurers from pursuing their digital transformation journeys. It is for these reasons that third-party innovative solutions prove valuable, enabling insurers to completely optimise their payment systems, for a fraction of the cost, resources, and time.
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