Edelman is the world’s largest public relations firm with 5,000 PR professionals operating in 65 cities worldwide. For the last 15 years, the firm’s Trust Barometer has measured public trust in major institutions including business, media and government. In 2011 the firm began tracking financial services as a separate category. The 2015 State of Trust in Financial Services report was recently released and it includes some very interesting findings.
People Aren’t Banking on the Bank
The survey, which included 33,000 responses from people in 27 countries, revealed that only 52% of people trust financial services firms. This puts trust in financial services behind telecommunications, consumer health and even alcoholic beverages. Only media fared worse. Of potentially even greater concern for financial services firms, 45% of informed respondents in the US say there is not enough regulation of the financial services industry. No other industry had as many people in favor of more regulation.
There is a Bright Spot
Interestingly, respondents reported having a high level (69%) of trust in the area of electronic and mobile payments. Financial services was, in fact, the only industry in which the public’s faith in the sector’s ability to innovate outperformed the sector as a whole. Edelman theorizes that this is largely due to the industry’s quick response to shielding customer’s from credit card fraud and larger efforts to protect customer accounts and data.
The Importance of Search
One takeaway from the survey that is relevant across industries is that the public trusts search results (59%) above all other information sources, including traditional media. In addition to being the most trusted source of information, search results are also the first source to which people turn. This underscores the critical importance of a brand’s search engine optimization and website effectiveness efforts.
Trust is essential to growth. It appears that the financial services industry still has a way to go to overcome the substantial hit taken after the Great Recession. Edelman recommends that financial services firms build on the public’s openness to innovation and willingness to partner with companies that can demonstrate they are dedicated to making people’s lives better and willing to do what it takes to operate securely. For firms that take this advice, the outlook is optimistic.