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Five ways financial services organizations can build trust

May 3, 2018 / Consumer Banking

Ten years have passed since the 2008 global financial crisis: Has public trust in our global financial institutions bounced back?

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer—which measures trust in government, business, media and NGOs in 28 markets across the globe—dove more deeply into the financial services sector and found that after five years of a steady rise within this sector, those gains have now come to a halt.

Trust in financial services amongst the general population remained steady in 2018. However, trust fell in the informed public segment: a group that is college-educated, aged 25-64, in the top 25 percent of household income per age group/market, and reports significant media consumption and engagement in business news.

This is particularly noteworthy in the United States, which found trust in the financial services sector down a precipitous 20 points in just one year among the informed public. With this in mind, how can the financial services sector build trust? By analyzing the findings, we have identified five key areas business leaders should focus on:

1. Radical transparency matters.

When asked what has contributed to their distrust in financial services companies, the general public most commonly cited a lack of product and cost transparency. Consumers will no longer settle for institutions telling them how they handle their money and investments. To establish trust, companies must very clearly communicate what services they provide, what the costs will be, and how they truly serve the best interest of clients and customers. Today’s investors want all the essential information they need handed down in a straightforward, digestible manner—so they can then make their own educated decisions on how to reach their goals.

2. Providers must stay ahead of the technology curve.

When asked about the most critical factor in choosing a financial services provider, 83 percent of respondents cited a high-quality user experience. Delivering a consistent, reliable experience for customers that’s easy to navigate easily represents a key element in fostering trust. The survey also found that nearly four in five respondents (79 percent) view utilization of the latest technologies as a crucial factor when evaluating a financial services provider. Following years of high-tech disruption across the industry, the ability to adopt and strategically leverage the benefits of new technologies on behalf of customers has become table stakes. And yet…

3. Human interaction remains critical.

Of 28 markets examined globally, 18 said they view working with real people as more important than using the latest technology. Consumers still want to interact with trusted experts, without sacrificing technology-enabled solutions. Companies that combine the two and deliver the best balance of advice and service to their clients will not only earn trust, but also build a more sustainable business for the long-term. Of areas they most wish to receive guidance from human experts, respondents cited investment advice (31 percent), settling a disputed credit card charge (26 percent) and the selection and purchase of investment products (20 percent) as highest priority.

4. Industry expertise and trustworthy advice are sought-after commodities.

When asked who they trust most for financial input and advice, 42 percent of respondents identified credentialed investment advisors. Meanwhile, only 19 percent said they view information on their financial service provider’s website or in newsletters as the most trusted—indicating that consumers seek personal expertise and insight to guide their investment decisions. The human touch remains an imperative as individuals evaluate which providers they choose to work with. With that in mind, hiring talented financial experts—and providing them with training and development tools that allow them to refine their client service skillsets—will position financial services firms for lasting growth.

5. Content built on an existing relationship is valued.

Asked about the sources of information they consume, only 31 percent of respondents said they’d trust the validity of content from companies they don’t already purchase products and services from. However, nearly twice as many respondents (60 percent) said they view content shared by companies they work with as credible. This meaningful gap indicates that consumers look to the brands they work with to share insights on issues that impact investors and the industry. Meanwhile, the percentage of respondents who said they trust “people like me,” or their similar peer sets and social circles, remains high (though it has declined 8 percentage points since 2017). This highlights a growing opportunity for financial services brands to establish themselves as thought leaders that provide vital guidance on the issues that most concern their target audiences.

Overall, the results reinforce the need for companies to maintain a delicate, strategic balance of human creativity and expertise—while simultaneously driving ease and efficiency through innovative technology solutions. Trust remains the single most valuable currency in the global business environment. The brands that can instill trust across all stakeholders will be best positioned to lead their industries—and the communities they operate in—toward a more prosperous future. Put another way: Trust has tremendous financial benefits, both for hard-working consumers and the financial institutions that work hard to foster it.

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Deidre H. Campbell, Global Chair, Financial Services Sector at Edelman, leads a team of 350 executives in 33 offices. 

For more insights, check out the webinar: Banking in 2018 – From the Customers’ Perspective.