2021 Predictions: The Consensus on What Experts See in the Year Ahead
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Prediction Consensus: What the Experts See Coming in 2021

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2021 Predictions: What Experts See in the Year Ahead

Making predictions is a tricky business at the best of times, but especially so after a year of upheaval. Even so, that didn’t stop people from trying their hand at reading the crystal ball. If anything, the uncertainty creates a stronger temptation for us to try to forecast the year ahead.

Out of the thousands of public 2021 predictions and forecasts available, there are plenty of one-off guesses. However, things really get interesting when a desperate majority of experts begin to agree on what might happen. In some ways, these predictions from influential experts and firms have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophesies, so it’s worth paying attention even if we’re skeptical about the assertions being made.

This year, we more than doubled the number of sources analyzed for our 2021 Predictions Consensus graphic, including outlooks from financial institutions, thought leaders, media outlets, consultancies, and more. Let’s take a closer look at seven of the most popular predictions:

ESG reaches a tipping point

It seems like only recently that the term ESG gained mainstream traction in the investment community, but in a short amount of time, the trend has blossomed into a full-blown societal shift. In 2020, investors piled a record $27.7 billion of inflows into ETFs traded in U.S. markets, and that momentum only appears to be growing.

prediction consensus esg

Fidelity, among others, noted that climate funds are delivering superior returns, which makes ESG an even easier sell to investors. Nasdaq has tapped ESG to be “one of the hottest trends” over the coming year.

China has a strong 2021

Financial institutions that issue predictions generally hedge their language quite a bit, but on this topic they were direct. The world’s most populous country has already left the pandemic behind and is back to business as usual. Of the institutions that mentioned a specific number, the median estimate for GDP growth in China was 8.4%.

prediction consensus china

A souring outlook on SPACs

Much like any hot trend, once enough people get on the bandwagon the mood begins to sour. Many experts believe that special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) are going to enter that phase in 2021.

prediction consensus spacs

SPACs had a monster year in 2020, raising $82 billion in capital. That’s more funds in one year than in the last 10 years combined. Of course, now that these 200+ companies are flush with capital, they’ll need to find a target. Scott Galloway argues that SPACs “are going to vastly underperform over the next two to three years” since there aren’t enough good opportunities to satisfy that level of demand.

Brands must be authentic and values-driven

Over the past few years, brands have become increasingly values-driven. In their 2021 predictions, experts see this trend being pushed even further.

Millennials, which are now the largest generation in the workforce, are shaping society in their own image, and the expectation is that companies have an authentic voice and that actions align with words. This trend is augmented by the transparency that the internet and social media have enabled.

prediction consensus values-driven companies

Being a “values-driven” company can mean many things, and often involves focusing on a number of initiatives simultaneously. At the forefront is racial inequality and diversity initiatives, which were a key focus in 2020. According to McKinsey, nine out of ten employees globally believe companies should engage in diversity and inclusion initiatives. When the chorus of voices grows loud enough, eventually actions must follow.

A great rethinking of office life is underway

The great work-from-home experiment will soon be approaching the one-year mark and a lot has changed in a short amount of time.

Even firms that were incredibly resistant to remote work found themselves in a position of having to adapt to new circumstances thanks to COVID-19. Now that the feasibility of at-home work has been proven, it will be tough for companies to walk things back to pre-pandemic times. Over 2021, millions of companies will begin reengineering everything from physical offices to digital infrastructure, and this has broad implications on the economy and our culture.

prediction consensus rethinking office life

Individuals and employers start taking wellness seriously

The past year was not good for our collective mental health. In response, many companies are looking at ways to support employees from a health and wellness standpoint. One example is the trend of giving teams access to meditation apps like Headspace and Calm.

prediction consensus wellness

This focus on wellness will persist, even as people begin to return to the office. As commercial leases expire in 2021, companies will be re-evaluating their office needs, and many experts believe that wellness will factor into those decisions.

Lastly, this trend ties into the broader theme of values-driven companies. If brands profess a desire to impact society in a positive way, employees expect actions to extend inward as well.

Big Tech backlash continues

Among experts, there’s little doubt that the Big Tech backlash will bleed over into 2021. There is a divergence of opinion on exactly what will happen as a result. There are three general themes:

    1. 1. Regulators will admonish and threaten Big Tech publicly, but nothing concrete will happen.
      2. Facebook will be broken up into parts (Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp)
      3. Companies will proactively change their business practices and look for ways to settle quickly
  • prediction consensus tech-backlash

    Aside from the thread of regulatory action, the tech sector is facing a bit of an identity crisis. Silicon Valley is grappling with the reality that the center of gravity is shifting. Pitchbook notes that Bay Area will fall below 20% of U.S. deal count for first time, and there have been very public departures from the valley in recent months.

    Faced with pressure from a number of different angles, the technology sector may have a year of soul-searching ahead.

    The Elephant in the Room

    COVID-19 is the one factor that impacts nearly every one of these 2021 predictions, yet, there were few predictions–and certainly no consensus from experts–on vaccine rollouts and case counts. It’s possible that the complexity of the pandemic and the enormous task of dealing with this public health crisis makes it too much of a moving target to predict in specific terms.

    In general though, expert opinions on when we’ll return to a more “normal” stage again range from the summer of 2021 to the start of 2022. With the exception of China, most major economies are still grappling with outbreaks and the resulting economic fallout.

    It remains to be seen whether COVID-19 will dominate 2022’s predictions, or whether we’ll be able to look beyond the pandemic era.

    The Good Stuff: Sources We Like

    Of the hundreds of sources we looked at, here were a few that stood out as memorable and comprehensive:

    Bloomberg’s Outlook 2021
    : This article compiled over 500 predictions from Wall Street banks and investment firms.

    Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway’s Big 2021 Predictions: Swisher and Galloway combine their deep understanding of the technology ecosystem with frank (and hilarious) commentary to come up with some of the most plausible predictions of 2021. From Robinhood to Twitter, they cover a lot of ground in this interview.

    Crystal Ball 2021: Fortune’s annual batch of predictions is always one to watch. It’s comprehensive, succinct, and hits upon a wide variety of topics.

    John Battelle’s Predictions 2021: John Battelle has been publishing annual predictions for nearly two decades, and this year’s batch is perhaps the most eagerly anticipated. His predictions are thoughtful, credible, and specific. It’s also worth noting that Battelle circles back and grades his predictions – a level of accountability that is to be praised.

    Like this feature? An expanded look at 2021’s predictions will be shared with our VC+ audience later this month.

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    The Best Selling Vehicles in America, By State

    From Fords in the Midwest to Toyotas on the coasts, here are the best selling vehicles in America, visualized by state.

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    The Best Selling Cars in America, By State Shareable

    The Best Selling Vehicles in America, By State

    From Ford trucks in the Midwest to Toyotas on the coasts, the best selling vehicles in America reveal a lot about the country.

    Compared to other countries with fewer highways or narrower roads, the U.S. is very much a truck-friendly country. Across the U.S., the most sold vehicle in 2019 was the Ford F-Series of trucks, primarily the F-150.

    As the home of the world’s pioneer automotive manufacturers, including Ford and GM, consumers primarily purchase local brands. But that hasn’t stopped Toyota, the largest foreign manufacturer in the world, from also gaining a foothold.

    This graphic uses 2020 sales data from automotive information resource Edmunds.com, breaking down the best selling vehicles in each state through new vehicle retail registration.

    What Are the Best Selling Vehicles in Each State?

    Despite a slowdown in vehicle sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a global chip shortage, Americans still bought plenty of trucks last year.

    In fact, 48 out of the 50 states had a truck or SUV as the top selling vehicle in 2020—and most states actually had trucks taking all of the top three spots. The only two with a car topping the leaderboard were California and Florida.

    Top Selling Vehicle By State (2020)#1#2#3
    AlabamaFord F-SeriesChevrolet SilveradoToyota Camry
    AlaskaRam 1500-3500Ford F-SeriesChevrolet Silverado
    ArizonaRam 1500-3500Ford F-SeriesChevrolet Silverado
    ArkansasRam 1500-3500Ford F-SeriesChevrolet Silverado
    CaliforniaHonda CivicToyota RAV4Toyota Camry
    ColoradoFord F-SeriesRam 1500-3500Toyota RAV4
    ConnecticutHonda CR-VToyota RAV4Subaru Forester
    D.C.Toyota RAV4Honda CR-VSubaru Forester
    DelawareFord F-SeriesChevrolet SilveradoRAM 1500-3500
    FloridaToyota CorollaFord F-SeriesToyota RAV4
    GeorgiaFord F-SeriesChevrolet SilveradoRAM 1500-3500
    HawaiiToyota TacomaToyota 4RunnerToyota RAV4
    IdahoFord F-SeriesRAM 1500-3500Chevrolet Silverado
    IllinoisFord F-SeriesHonda CR-VChevrolet Silverado
    IndianaChevrolet SilveradoFord F-SeriesChevrolet Equinox
    IowaChevrolet SilveradoFord F-SeriesRAM 1500-3500
    KansasFord F-SeriesChevrolet SilveradoRAM 1500-3500
    KentuckyChevrolet SilveradoFord F-SeriesRAM 1500-3500
    LouisianaFord F-SeriesChevrolet SilveradoRAM 1500-3500
    MaineFord F-SeriesChevrolet SilveradoRAM 1500-3500
    MarylandToyota RAV4Ford F-SeriesHonda CR-V
    MassachusettsToyota RAV4Honda CR-VFord F-Series
    MichiganFord F-SeriesChevrolet EquinoxRAM 1500-3500
    MinnesotaChevrolet SilveradoFord F-SeriesRAM 1500-3500
    MississippiFord F-SeriesChevrolet SilveradoRAM 1500-3500
    MissouriFord F-SeriesChevrolet SilveradoRAM 1500-3500
    MontanaFord F-SeriesRAM 1500-3500Chevrolet Silverado
    NebraskaFord F-SeriesChevrolet SilveradoRAM 1500-3500
    NevadaRam 1500-3500Ford F-SeriesToyota RAV4
    New HampshireFord F-SeriesChevrolet SilveradoToyota RAV4
    New JerseyHonda CR-VHonda CivicToyota RAV4
    New MexicoFord F-SeriesRAM 1500-3500Chevrolet Silverado
    New YorkHonda CR-VToyota RAV4Jeep Cherokee
    North CarolinaFord F-SeriesChevrolet SilveradoRAM 1500-3500
    North DakotaFord F-SeriesChevrolet SilveradoRAM 1500-3500
    OhioFord F-SeriesRAM 1500-3500Chevrolet Silverado
    OklahomaFord F-SeriesRAM 1500-3500Chevrolet Silverado
    OregonToyota RAV4Ford F-SeriesRAM 1500-3500
    PennsylvaniaFord F-SeriesRAM 1500-3500Honda CR-V
    Puerto RicoToyota RAV4Toyota YarisToyota Corolla
    Rhode IslandToyota RAV4Honda CR-VFord F-Series
    South CarolinaFord F-SeriesChevrolet SilveradoRAM 1500-3500
    South DakotaFord F-SeriesRAM 1500-3500Chevrolet Silverado
    TennesseeFord F-SeriesChevrolet SilveradoRAM 1500-3500
    TexasFord F-SeriesChevrolet SilveradoRAM 1500-3500
    UtahFord F-SeriesRAM 1500-3500Chevrolet Silverado
    VermontFord F-SeriesToyota RAV4RAM 1500-3500
    VirginiaFord F-SeriesToyota RAV4Honda CR-V
    WashingtonToyota RAV4Ford F-SeriesRam 1500-3500
    West VirginiaFord F-SeriesChevrolet SilveradoRam 1500-3500
    WisconsinFord F-SeriesChevrolet SilveradoRam 1500-3500
    WyomingRam 1500-3500Ford F-SeriesChevrolet Silverado

    The Ford F-Series was the clear leader in sales, primarily in the Midwest. With a top-selling spot in 60% of U.S. states, the F-Series was the best selling vehicle in America.

    Combined with the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500-3500 series, the big three American truck brands accounted for 73% of the top three selling vehicles across all American states and territories.

    Japanese Automakers in the Mix

    Though American manufacturers had the best selling cars in most states, they had some overseas competition.

    Japanese manufacturers Toyota and Honda had the top-selling vehicle in 11 states (and D.C.). They primarily captured car sales along the coastlines, including in California, Florida, New York and Washington, some of the most populated states in the country.

    America's Best Selling Vehicles (2020)Type# Times in Top 3
    Ford F-SeriesTruck45
    Ram 1500-3500Truck36
    Chevrolet SilveradoTruck33
    Toyota RAV4SUV18
    Honda CR-VSUV10
    Chevrolet EquinoxSUV2
    Honda CivicCar2
    Subaru ForesterSUV2
    Toyota CamryCar2
    Toyota CorollaCar2
    Jeep CherokeeSUV1
    Toyota 4RunnerSUV1
    Toyota TacomaTruck1
    Toyota YarisCar1

    Despite many cars being available for sale in the U.S., only seven manufacturers made the top-selling vehicles list in 2020.

    • Ford
    • Ram
    • Chevrolet
    • Toyota
    • Honda
    • Subaru
    • Jeep

    With the full effects of the COVID-19 pandemic yet to be reflected in the sales, and electric vehicle manufacturers like Tesla on the rise, how will the best selling vehicles in America evolve?

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    Technology

    Ranked: Big Tech CEO Insider Trading During the First Half of 2021

    Big Tech is worth trillions, but what are insiders doing with their stock? We breakdown Big Tech CEO insider trading during the first half of 2021.

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    Big Tech CEO Insider Trading During The First Half of 2021

    When CEOs of major companies are selling their shares, investors can’t help but notice.

    After all, these decisions have a direct effect on the personal wealth of these insiders, which can say plenty about their convictions with respect to the future direction of the companies they run.

    Considering that Big Tech stocks are some of the most popular holdings in today’s portfolios, and are backed by a collective $5.3 trillion in institutional investment, how do the CEOs of these organizations rank by their insider selling?

    CEOStockShares Sold H1 2021Value of Shares ($M)
    Jeff BezosAmazon (AMZN)2.0 million$6,600
    Mark ZuckerbergFacebook (FB)7.1 million$2,200
    Satya NadellaMicrosoft (MSFT)278,694
    $65
    Sundar PichaiGoogle (GOOGL)27,000$62
    Tim CookApple (AAPL)0$0

    Breaking Down Insider Trading, by CEO

    Let’s dive into the insider trading activity of each Big Tech CEO:

    Jeff Bezos

    During the first half of 2021, Jeff Bezos sold 2 million shares of Amazon worth $6.6 billion.

    This activity was spread across 15 different transactions, representing an average of $440 million per transaction. Altogether, this ranks him first by CEO insider selling, by total dollar proceeds. Bezos’s time as CEO of Amazon came to an end shortly after the half way mark for the year.

    Mark Zuckerberg

    In second place is Mark Zuckerberg, who has been significantly busier selling than the rest.

    In the first half of 2021, he unloaded 7.1 million shares of Facebook onto the open market, worth $2.2 billion. What makes these transactions interesting is the sheer quantity of them, as he sold on 136 out of 180 days. On average, that’s $12 million worth of stock sold every day.

    Zuckerberg’s record year of selling in 2018 resulted in over $5 billion worth of stock sold, but over 90% of his net worth still remains in the company.

    Satya Nadella

    Next is Satya Nadella, who sold 278,694 shares of Microsoft, worth $234 million. Despite this, the Microsoft CEO still holds an estimated 1.6 million shares, which is the largest of any insider.

    Microsoft’s stock has been on a tear for a number of years now, and belongs to an elite trillion dollar club, which consists of only six public companies.

    Sundar Pichai

    Fourth on the list is Sundar Pichai who has been at the helm at Google for six years now. Since the start of 2021, he’s sold 27,000 shares through nine separate transactions, worth $62.5 million. However, Pichai still has an estimated 6,407 Class A and 114,861 Class C shares.

    Google is closing in on a $2 trillion valuation and is the best performing Big Tech stock, with shares rising 60% year-to-date. Their market share growth from U.S. ad revenues is a large contributing factor.

    Tim Cook

    Last, is Tim Cook, who just surpassed a decade as Apple CEO.

    During this time, shares have rallied over 1,000% and annual sales have gone from $100 billion to $347 billion. That said, Cook has sold 0 shares of Apple during the first half of 2021. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t sold shares elsewhere, though. Cook also sits on the board of directors for Nike, and has sold $6.9 million worth of shares this year.

    Measuring Insider Selling

    All things equal, it’s desirable for management to have skin in the game, and be invested alongside shareholders. It can also be seen as aligning long-term interests.

    A good measure of insider selling activity is in relation to the existing stake in the company. For example, selling $6.6 billion worth of shares may sound like a lot, but when there are 51.7 million Amazon shares remaining for Jeff Bezos, it actually represents a small portion and is probably not cause for panic.

    If, however, executives are disclosing large transactions relative to their total stakes, it might be worth digging deeper.

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