Trends to watch in the capital market

Our annual deep-dive into the minds of capital market professionals saw a number of new – and sometimes surprising! – trends come to light. In an ever-changing landscape, professionals seek the best ways to keep up-to-date: alongside the familiar call for slicker corporate websites was a greater demand for in-depth archives and figures, as well as a rise in the use of tools that enable rapid access to information.

Key areas of a corporate website

A major trend in this year's survey was a demand for more information from several areas of a corporate website. But what exactly are these capital market professionals looking for? Let's look at some of the key points.

Financial information and sustainability

As explored in Hunkering down in uncertain times, financial information on shares and debt was in high demand, as was corporate governance information. The steady drive for in-depth sustainability information also continued, as it has done over the last five years. There was also an increased emphasis on companies presenting their latest sustainability report alongside their strategy, as well as environmental targets and risk management procedures (as discussed in Risk management - Sustainable forecasting).

Press and News

Respondents ranked the presence of a press release archive as being more essential than ever before. For ease of use, the archive should have a good filter function and offer releases in a printable format. Demand for a similarly effective news archive has also increased, as capital market professionals seek to gain an edge by staying on top of corporate updates.

Not all interactivity is created equal

This year’s spotlight revisits a common theme: improving the corporate website user experience. Companies can streamline their digital corporate communications by presenting the most highly requested information in a friendlier manner.

Improving UX

Respondents noted a degree of difficulty in extracting desired content from corporate websites. Compared to last year, there was an increase in the demand for effective functionality features, with site speed leading the pack. There were also calls for better web security, printer-friendly pages, and efficient internal search engines.

Most important features of a corporate website

Less can be more

Most capital market professionals choose to read annual reports on a screen, primarily as a PDF but also directly on the website. In some respects, interactive content was not desirable as a part of this, with a handful of open comments suggesting that it can interfere with ease of navigation and loading times. However, this was far from a unanimous view. When set up effectively, interactive content can break down complicated information and provide a clear picture of company strategy or key employees. Investor presentations and webcasts are also useful when it comes to directly offering vital information.

Popularity contest: information channels

So, where does the capital market get its information from? It’s the same old - yet different. Some of the big hitters remained at the top of the list, whilst a number of newcomers are growing in influence. Social media continues on the fringes.

Let's explore the data in more detail.

The usual favourites: corporate websites, annual reports, databases

Respondents continue to heavily depend on a few well-established channels. Corporate websites and annual reports are the main company-controlled resources. Databases or news agencies, such as Bloomberg, remain the most widely used and trusted independent sources, along with daily business newspapers.

The new faces: podcasts, calendar alerts

Elsewhere, independent podcasts providing company information have seen a spike in audiences, as they provide a useful way for capital market professionals to get their corporate news on the go. Calendar alerts for corporate updates are also growing in popularity. Compared to the sharp decline in the use of postal services, this reflects an ever-increasing need for instantly accessible information.

The same old stragglers: social media, apps

Almost half of our respondents do not use social media for corporate purposes at all, and only 12% use it as a daily information source. LinkedIn is the most used channel, though 34% of respondents do not use it at all. To an even lesser extent, some consult Twitter for news and YouTube for company information. However, not using it professionally doesn't mean that they don't use it at all, which might be worth keeping in mind. Apps, never a particularly popular means for acquiring corporate updates, continued to decline in usage. Though slightly over half of respondents use financial apps like Bloomberg, this was nevertheless down 20% on 2018.

How often do you use social media for corporate information?

Which of the following social media accounts do you follow?

ESMA’s ESEF – a welcome change, for the enlightened few!

The European Single Electronic Format (ESEF) is an initiative from the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) aiming to make financial statements transparent, comparable, and accessible. This means that, starting from the 1st of January 2020, annual financial reports containing financial data should be made available online.

75% of respondent companies have not yet considered the implications of these changes for annual reports, which are outlined in more detail in our Web Management report. However, the proactive remainder were almost unanimously in favour of the move to a more uniform layout. The ESEF will make it easier for analysts to fully compare data between companies and should also facilitate greater transparency for financial information – a criterion highly valued by respondents – all of which is summed up in this open comment:

"Consistent reporting which can be easily data scraped is the dream for an analyst!"
- Sell-side analyst, European markets

How do you perceive the new policy on digital annual reporting format (ESEF)?

Our sources

This year’s survey saw 49 questions answered by 214 respondents from a variety of companies, covering a range of capital markets across the globe. Additionally, we’ve interviewed three capital market professionals who follow European markets. The questions investigated everything from how they interact with corporate websites to what information companies should presented more clearly.

In a broad split across many roles, the top three respondent occupations were sell-side analyst, fund manager and buy-side analyst. The respondents mainly follow different parts of Europe, followed by North America.

Which markets do you cover?

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