Conducting facets of our lives online was a trend that started years before the pandemic. As smartphones and cheap data became prevalent, we started ordering food and taxis online, Slacking and Zooming with co-workers, and playing multiplayer mobile games. As the pandemic hit, Main Street joined early adopters: consulting with doctors on telehealth apps, using eLearning tools, and watching live concerts and sporting events in a virtual online environment. All of these online experiences start by putting people into some kind of “Virtual Space.”
Shareholder activism has proved to be a permanent part of the global capital markets. In 2009, activist hedge funds had approximately $39b in assets under management. Today, that number is closer to $130b. Considering assets under management for all hedge funds that pursue activism in at least one of their strategies, the total amount of capital available for deployment globally by activists is many multiples of that number. The narrative around shareholder activism has also evolved from its early days as an offshoot of so-called corporate raiders, whose post-acquisition cost-cutting strategies were widely panned as lining their own pockets at the expense of the average worker.
Over a year into the pandemic, institutional investors are worried about the mental heath of their employees. Managing stress and curbing burnout among employees who are working remotely were cited as top concerns in Nuveen’s inaugural global survey of institutional investors, which was released Wednesday. While the functions of the office space translated relatively seamlessly to a remote world, institutional investors reported concerns about employee mental health, including stress levels and the potential for burnout. Among global respondents, 54 percent said they were either “concerned” or “very concerned” about employees’ mental health.
The coronavirus pandemic has spurred unexpected improvements at U.S. companies and pushed CFOs to reprioritize technology investment, according to a Grant Thornton survey. The accounting firm reported that more than 60% of CFOs cited improved flexible and remote work environments as an upside of the pandemic, with 40% also noting improved collaboration, improved business processes, and an ability to better focus on strategy. Amid the shift to remote work, 61% of finance chiefs indicated that they expect to increase investment in cybersecurity in the next year.
Late last year, Nasdaq took what was arguably the corporate world’s most assertive action to date to promote the diversity, equity and inclusion in the corporate boardroom. Nasdaq filed a proposal with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requesting permission to require that the 3,200+ companies listed on its U.S. exchange diversify their boards of director, or face penalties up to and including delisting. The proposal tracks closely with a broader shift, both in the financial services industry and in state government.
Institutional investors are embracing alts in a big way: 86% of them now have money in alternative investments. What’s more, of those, two-thirds plan to increase their allocations this year. That’s the finding of a survey of pension, endowment, insurance, and other big investors, as well as consultants, done by Nuveen, the investment manager for TIAA. The catalyst for this trend is the pandemic, the study stated, contending that the “crisis has brought some new approaches to the daily work of investing, including the due diligence process.”
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