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In many cases, the biggest impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have been accelerations of existing societal trends rather than shifts in completely new directions. The surge in online shopping, for example, has added to a trend towards ecommerce that pre-dated the pandemic; so too the growth in moves to more flexible styles of working. A third example is the increased focus on investment with an environmental, social and governance (ESG) tilt – and that looks set to continue.

Flows into ESG funds were increasing rapidly well before Covid-19 came along – in the UK alone, the sector was attracting £124m of new investment a week last year according to data from Morningstar. And in a post-pandemic world, we can expect such figures to rise even higher.

For one thing, Covid-19 has prompted people to think about the way they live their lives and to question what is most important to them. But also, the pandemic has once again underlined how it is possible for investors to do well by doing good. For example, when stock markets plunged during March as investors began to appreciate the severity and scale of the Covid-19 pandemics, companies with good ESG ratings provided some protection: such stocks outperformed in 94% of cases.

In this context, research from Dianomi suggests there is a great deal of appetite amongst investors to read about stocks and to find out more about the broader ESG phenomenon.

There are some very obvious areas of interest. For instance, Dianomi’s data shows a massive increase in recent months in the consumption of online financial content offering coverage of healthcare and biotechnology. These sectors figure prominently in many ESG portfolios and are attracting huge interest in the context of their frontline role in the battle against Covid-19. In some months during the spring and summer, the number of investors consuming coverage of healthcare and biotech increased significantly, Dianomi’s data shows.

More broadly, however, Dianomi’s analysis also suggests investors are focusing determinedly on the way all companies behave for good or for bad. The most widely read ESG article online last month was MarketWatch’s coverage of S&P’s updated ESG scores for leading businesses, Twitter, Walmart, Equifax and others dropped by S&P from its ESG index, while Costco is newly included. Elsewhere, Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards 2020, focusing on the impact investments that have generated the greatest societal benefits alongside a financial return, was also widely consumed.

Other top-ranking articles underline the point. Investors are anxious that the businesses in which they invest do not lose sight of the importance of sustainability during these challenging times. As Reuters reported, Goldman Sachs has launched a council of traders, sales staff and others to share expertise on sustainable finance and investing, to meet demand from clients. Business Insider pointed out how consumer-facing businesses are now recognising that “sustainability sells”.

Clearly, investors are determined to examine their consciences in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic – to seek out opportunities to embrace social responsibility, both in an investment context, but also in the choices they make as consumers. Many are looking to build portfolios of stocks with high ESG ratings, or to identify funds that do the job for them, delivering strong returns from investments with which they feel ethically and morally comfortable.

For generators of online financial content – both in the media and the investment industry itself – supporting investors as they pursue these goals will be ever more important. Having decided they do not wish to return to business as usual, investors will be looking for practical advice on how to remain on track with their financial planning objectives while simultaneously embracing ESG styles and concepts.

Investors remain hungry for content.

More than three months into the Covid-19 pandemic in Western countries, investors are still searching for insight and expertise that might help them navigate a path through the volatility that the crisis has prompted. Data from Dianomi reveals surging interest in financial content online continued during June, as investors looked for support and advice.

Looking across four major asset classes – equities, fixed income, real estate and commodities – Dianomi registered a 24% increase in investors’ consumption of online financial content in June compared to May. Consumption is up by an average of 11% on January, before the Covid-19 crisis broke. Equity-related content accounts for around three-quarters of consumption on the sites tracked by Dianomi, with demand for coverage remaining high despite the relative calm that has descended on world stock markets in recent weeks. US stocks were almost completely flat during June, but investors are still consuming 12% more content on average than in January.

Moreover, while investors’ appetite for equity-related content has fallen back compared to the height of the crisis, their levels of engagement have continued to rise all year. Dianomi’s Engagement Index, which tracks reader engagement over time, has risen from 4.5 at the beginning of the year in equities to 5.5 last month. The data suggests that investors remain anxious about their stock market investments despite the more recent easing of market turbulence. While world stock markets have recovered some of the losses they sustained at the beginning of the pandemic, most remain well below their levels in the first quarter of the year. Dianomi’s analysis suggests the story is similar in other asset classes.

In fixed-income and bonds, for example, investors have continued to search out content in greater numbers, reflecting both the increased volatility of global bond markets and the difficulties of securing yield in the ongoing low interest rate environment. The US Federal Reserve kept interest rates at zero last month, but there has been increasing pressure in recent weeks for a move towards negative rates. This is one reason why investors are consuming 11% more fixed-income content each month than in January. Engagement with fixed-income content has also been maintained.

Interest in commodities has also been significant, with June’s Engagement Index score of 6.1 higher in this asset class than any others. Consumption is 9% up on average compared to January. In part, the interest in commodities in recent weeks will reflect the sustained increase in prices of many raw materials since the low points recorded in March and April. Investors also continue to seek out content on gold, the ultimate safe-haven asset.

Meanwhile, content on real estate is also in demand. While consumption of real estate content has grown less rapidly during the crisis – potentially reflecting reduced transaction volumes during the lockdown – the asset class is still recording an average of 4% more consumption each month compared to January. Amid the volatility on traded exchanges, investors continue to look to alternative asset classes for diversification and return opportunities.

At an aggregate level, Dianomi’s data suggests that the spike in demand for news, commentary and advice on financial markets registered at the beginning of the pandemic has been maintained. Indeed, in challenging markets – Dianomi analysis suggests 52% of all content last month had a negative tone – investors continue to need help. And with so much uncertainty continuing – and the Covid-19 virus far from under control in many markets – their appetite for insight remains elevated.