You probably didn’t need a survey to know that the eyeballs of financial professionals are restless. But we wanted to take a closer look at their financial news viewing habits. It was no surprise to discover in the Shed Social – Wealth Know How survey that 80% are accessing financial news and information online ‘several times a day’. In the funds management sector, it is higher at 87%. Finance professionals wouldn’t be doing their job if they weren’t checking their chosen markets on a regular basis. So it is natural to use online sources to update current economic news and information.
Demographics of the respondents
What we wanted to know was where and how is the best way to communicate key messages through the media. And given the churn of material and galaxy of choices available, we wanted to focus on discovering the principal sources for financial news and information.
Our target market was the high end of Australia’s financial services professionals, ranging across financial managers, financial planners and the institutional investment industry. A breakdown of the 644 respondents revealed that 71% work for corporations and over 70% were in, self-described, ‘senior’ positions. Further analysis shows that 46% worked as financial advisors, with 34% in funds management. Not unexpectedly, given the seniority, the over-50s dominated:
- 48% were aged between 45 and 59, and
- 30% were in the 30 to 44 age group.
Given that demographic, it is fair to suggest they are at the conservative end of the risk spectrum. All respondents use multiple platforms, including online, offline and social media.
Principal sources of financial news
It started to get interesting when we began to investigate the principal sources for financial news. By principal we mean the ‘main’, ‘go to’ sources which financial professionals use to look for their financial news and information.
While all say they spend time online checking up on financial news, their principal sources for financial information can be broken down to:
- 72% online sources
- 17% offline which includes traditional media such as print, radio and television
- 11% social media
Drilling down into these numbers we see that mainstream media has been sidelined. What emerges is that 23% of financial professionals use the financial trade press as their principal source for news. More than a third of all online media usage is directed at the financial trade media, with Bloomberg coming in second at 10%. Their strong numbers suggest the financial community go beyond local media for global economic and market news, especially when it is free.
The leading mainstream media publication online is the Australian Financial Review, favoured by 9% of respondents. That figure almost doubles the combined major metro newspapers which include the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, and the Daily Telegraph, favoured by 5% of the respondents.
The overwhelming dominance of trade media as a principal financial news source online underlines the value of specialist publications. Financial professionals are clearly looking to focus on the news and content that best fits their speciality. For instance, the superannuation or investment management sectors are well catered for in the trade media, and would attract professionals focused on those fields.
Finance professionals who are still looking offline for their principal news – 17% – are mostly reading the Australian Financial Review, which is no surprise given the audience’s demographic.
A survey standout, given the conservative bent of the sample group, was that 42% of financial professionals said they use social media as one of their sources for financial news. More striking was that 11% said that they use social media as their principal source, broken up as:
- LinkedIn 7%
- Facebook 2%
- Twitter 2%.
While Facebook’s growing use as a distribution platform for mainstream media and by large and small businesses has been well-documented, financial professionals prefer LinkedIn as their principal social media source. LinkedIn has become the finance professional’s Facebook.
It would seem that Facebook still has a stigma, amongst the older crowd at least, of being a site to stay in touch with family and friends. We hear anecdotally that some workplaces ban employees from accessing Facebook on their desktops during work hours. Which means people just look at it on their smart phones where they spend most of their time anyway.
This is despite the business world, from large corporations to local businesses, all making sure they have a Facebook presence. And Facebook itself investing in improving its algorithms to expand a company’s network. Given there are a couple of generations who have spent more time on Facebook than watching television, it is easy to see why they might want to control media content as well as business and social activity. Or that they are attracting such major media organisations as The New York Times, National Geographic, and locally the Fairfax papers, who all are working out distribution deals through Facebook.
Tipping point reached for smartphones and social media
Another survey stand out was just how important smartphones already are as a source, as 64% said that they use their smartphones to seek out financial information. This is nothing new you might think. You don’t have to look far to see mobiles in everything we do. But what the survey numbers confirm is that mobiles are already on par with desktop as the way finance professionals look for news, and ahead of all other mobile devices. If a company does not have a presence or an ability to do business on mobile phones, it is clearly at a huge disadvantage.
The use of mobiles or other portable tablets, such as the Apple Watch, to access news and information will increase as mobile technology becomes more sophisticated and the financial industry adapts to the digital distribution of its data.
Whatever the platform or the source, this survey shows a genuine hunger amongst financial professionals for regular, up-to-the-minute financial intelligence and commentary.
And while financial professionals have traditionally taken a conservative approach in their adoption of new media, these numbers mark how the tipping point has already passed in the shift from old media to the new digital landscape. The numbers will increase as we see the generational shift in management and as traditional media brands increasingly make social media, both LinkedIn and Facebook, key to their communications strategy.
Alex McGregor is a Director at Shed Social. The survey was sponsored by Wealth Know How and carried out by McGregor Tan Research.