Investors place the greatest trust in independent auditors, according to a new survey by the Center for Audit Quality.
The CAQ’s 2015 Main Street Investor Survey asked 1,012 investors by telephone how much confidence they have in a number of different entities when it comes to effectiveness in looking out for investors’ interests. The investors surveyed expressed the most trust in independent auditors (at a rate of 76 percent), followed by financial advisors and brokers (at 73 percent) and independent audit committees (71 percent).
The biggest gain in confidence seen this year was in corporate boards of directors, which increased 10 percentage points (from 49 percent last year to 59 percent this year). Like investors nationwide, Millennials have the most confidence in independent auditors (77 percent), followed by financial advisors and brokers (74 percent), and stock exchanges (74 percent).
Overall, 73 percent of the investors polled said they have confidence in U.S capital markets, holding steady from last year’s survey and up 12 percentage points from the post-crisis low. This confidence cuts across generations and geography. In contrast, confidence in non-U.S. capital markets decreased from 2014, edging closer to the lowest level recorded since 2007, the year the CAQ began the survey.
“Our 2015 survey results paint a fascinating picture of the American retail investor,” said CAQ executive director Cindy Fornelli in a statement. “Despite sometimes nerve-wracking fluctuations in the marketplace, our survey shows that U.S. investor confidence is resilient, a positive sign given the importance of financial markets as engines of capital formation and economic growth.”
The most frequently cited reasons by investors for their confidence were a generally positive view of the strength of the U.S. market system, recent good experiences with personal investments, and the historical stability of the U.S. markets.
Those with little or no confidence in the U.S capital markets pointed to a lack of leadership across the political spectrum, a general impression that the economy is not doing well, and perceptions of corporate greed or a growing gap between the rich and poor.
Confidence in investing in U.S. companies that are publicly traded remained high this year, at 78 percent. Three-quarters of investors said they have confidence in their ability to make successful financial decisions in today’s market environment. Thirty-eight percent of the investors cited “too much government regulation” as the biggest threat to their investment portfolio.
This year’s survey also examined the attitudes of younger, Millennial-generation investors between the ages of 18 and 34. In many respects, the survey found the views of these younger investors mirrored those of previous generations when it comes to confidence in U.S. capital markets, publicly held companies, and the role of key players in corporate governance, financial reporting, and investment advice.
However, Millennials’ viewpoints diverged from other generations in some statistically significant ways. For example, these younger investors said that paying off debt was a higher priority for them than investing or saving.
Millennial investors (38 percent) were seven percentage points more likely than all investors nationwide (31 percent) to say they would pay down debt. Millennials (16 percent) were also five percentage points less likely than all investors nationwide (21 percent) to say they would put the $10,000 into their savings or checking account. They also are more attuned to emerging risks such as cybersecurity threats.
Millennial investors were more likely to describe themselves as willing to take risks after completing adequate research (35 percent) than all nationwide investors (26 percent).
Not being able to afford health care if they or a family member is seriously ill or injured was cited most frequently by investors as the biggest threat to their financial well-being (at 32 percent for all investors, versus 25 percent for Millennials).
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