CFA Institute Outlines Policy Recommendations for “Finfluencer” Social Media Content
CFA Institute research examines the growing impact of financial influencers on the Gen Z investor experience
New York City, United States 25 Jan 2024
- Gen Z investors turn to finfluencers for guidance on investment decisions
- Lack of financial literacy and perceived cost of advice drive people to finfluencer content
- CFA Institute calls for more action by regulators and industry
New research published today by CFA Institute, the global association of investment professionals, shows how financial influencers (“finfluencers”) engage Gen Z investors in the investment decision-making process.
The report, Finfluencer Appeal: Investing in the Age of Social Media, reveals that insufficient financial literacy, limited interaction with regulated financial advisers, and a preference for obtaining information through digital platforms, drives Gen Zers to engage with finfluencer content.
The report evaluates the adequacy of existing policy frameworks governing finfluencer activity, highlighting the challenges of regulatory compliance and disclosures in a cross-border social media context.
It analyzes content across TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram to understand finfluencer practices and uses these insights to make recommendations to improve industry best practices.
Rhodri Preece, CFA, Senior Head of Research, CFA Institute said:
“Finfluencers now play an increasingly significant role in educating young people about finance, with accessible content that is both informative and engaging. However, our research shows that finfluencer content often lacks sufficient disclosures, which can hinder the ability of consumers to evaluate the objectivity of the information, and some investors may be unaware when and how finfluencers are being paid to promote financial products.”
“Differences in definitions across markets for investment recommendations means complexity for finfluencers and a grey area for consumers of their content. Some finfluencers may be unaware that their activities are regulated and need appropriate disclosures. We urge regulators to consider a universal definition of an investment recommendation, and firms and social media platforms should work with finfluencers to ensure compliance with applicable policies.”
The research identifies key characteristics of finfluencer content through an original analysis of content on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Across the content reviewed, 45 percent offered guidance (content that provides general information about investments but does not recommend a particular course of action), 36 percent included investment promotions (marketing and advertisements of investment products), and 32 percent included investment recommendations (content that recommends a specific course of action). Just over half (53 percent) of content containing a promotion included a disclosure, compared with 20 percent of content containing a recommendation. 27 percent of content included an affiliate link.
Ignacio Ramirez Moreno, CFA, successful LinkedIn finfluencer added:
“Many finfluencers inadvertently provide financial advice that may be subject to regulatory scrutiny or that violates applicable laws. Their intent to demystify finance frequently brushes against regulatory barriers, blurring the line between casual unregulated investment ideas and regulated financial advice.”
“These create not only legal risk to the finfluencer; they also pose potential harm to the followers acting on their guidance. The consequences can be particularly severe for those lacking in-depth financial literacy who place unwavering trust in the guidance of finfluencers. As such, the call for a harmonized regulatory framework that guides cross-border finance conversations on social media is loud and clear.”
The report offers recommendations to reduce policy complexity, strengthen disclosures, and bolster financial education and digital engagement practices for finance content creators, consumers, and social media moderators. It recommends:
- That regulators co-operate to design and implement a more universal definition of an investment recommendation; engage with finfluencers to advise and clarify which influencer activities are regulated; and record and publicly report data on complaints and whistleblowing activities regarding finfluencers.
- That social media platforms enhance their controls and take additional responsibility in ensuring content creators clearly display posts that include advertising.
- The investment companies that use finfluencers provide them with compliance training if not already doing so; review finfluencer content before and immediately after it is posted to ensure it remains in compliance; maintain records of social media content commissioned; and ensure that finfluencers clearly disclose when they are promoting content or are sponsored.
- That financial education providers enhance financial literacy initiatives and strengthen Gen Z investors' ability to critically evaluate information through considering the motivations, qualifications, and consistency of finfluencer content.
- That professional investment advisers look to do more to engage Gen Z, promoting their knowledge, professional competency, duty of care and ethical responsibilities to stay competitive in an increasingly digitalized world.
To access the complete report, visit: Finfluencer Appeal: Investing in the Age of Social Media.
 The research used a generic definition of a ‘recommendation’ as opposed to a specific regulatory definition belonging to a given jurisdiction to facilitate comparability across markets.
Notes to Editors
Methodology: Finfluencer Appeal: Investing in the Age of Social Media identifies the key characteristics of finfluencer content through an analysis of 110 items of unique content from finfluencers in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Analysis includes choice of platform, type of investment, whether a promotion, recommendation, guidance, affiliate link or disclosure is included, number of finfluencer followers, and length of content.
A series of focus groups with Gen Z investors in France, Germany, and the Netherlands identified how Gen Z investors are engaging with finfluencer content. Additionally, the research draws on the findings from focus groups held with Gen Z investors in the United States and the United Kingdom for the CFA Institute and FINRA Investor Education Foundation research: Gen Z and Investing: Social Media, Crypto, FOMO and Family.
About CFA Institute
As the global association of investment professionals, CFA Institute sets the standard for professional excellence and credentials. We champion ethical behavior in investment markets and serve as the leading source of learning and research for the investment industry. We believe in fostering an environment where investors’ interests come first, markets function at their best, and economies grow. Spanning nearly 200,000 charterholders worldwide across 160 markets, CFA Institute has 10 offices and 160 local societies. Find us at www.cfainstitute.org or follow us on LinkedIn and X at @CFAInstitute.