By Russel Howcroft, Chief Creative Officer, CMO Advisory
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Public trust in the financial services sector has been soured to such an extent that its leaders must now ask some tough (almost existential) questions: What is the role of our organisation in society? How will we engage in the marketplace for the betterment of everybody?
The answers will only come from deep thought and reflection. But they need to be found – and then consistently communicated to the market – if trust is to be restored among investors, regulators and consumers.
Why trust matters
Trust is an asset. It makes people spend money. A 2018 PwC global survey asked more than 20,000 online consumers what made them choose retailers, aside from price. The top reason was obvious: ‘They have the items I want in stock’. But second was ‘I trust the brand’.
In financial services, trust is most definitely an asset. A 2018 AustralianSuper survey1 of more than 4,500 Australians found that trust and brand reputation were inextricably linked. For example, millennials said they trusted financial institutions with a reputation for ethical investments.
The absence of trust drives consumer behaviour too. In the 2017 MEF Global Consumer Trust Study2, more than 6,500 consumers were asked how they responded if they didn’t trust a brand. On mobile devices, 86% of consumers said that they took punitive action (e.g. leaving a negative review, taking their business elsewhere, or warning family and friends).
Philosophy breeds confidence
To restore the reputations of their institutions, financial services leaders need to confront this issue of trust and really own it. They need to be clear about what went wrong, what they didn’t do, and why this had a negative effect. This is a time for honesty.
Then leaders can start to ask some philosophical questions about the future of their business: Why are we here? What are we in business to do? How do we intend to operate? What is our role in society? How will our growth benefit the community? What are the precise actions we will embark upon and do consistently forevermore?
Leaders should write down their answers and share these widely. They should invite challenge and allow for the possibility that they might have got it wrong. Considering other perspectives can also help form arguments about why they might be right.
Going through this philosophical process gives a business confidence for the next step: taking the message to market.
Invest. Commit. Communicate. (Repeat)
In the wake of so much negative ‘noise’ about financial services, brands with genuine integrity must be prepared to invest to make their positive messages heard. This requires a long-term commitment to marketing and advertising.
At PwC we talk about a framework of trust that includes advocacy, consistency, success and transparency. When consumers encounter financial services marketing they will be asking:
Financial services brands will need answer these questions consistently and relentlessly; modelling the right behaviours through marketing. This involves communicating the same message, in a many different ways, over a sustained period of time.
A breakthrough will come
It won’t happen overnight, but there will be a breakthrough moment when a financial services organisation follows the above process and really nails it. Their reputation will grow – so will their sales – and they will restore public trust in their brand.
Financial Services Council Summit
Russel Howcroft will be speaking at the Financial Services Council Summit in Melbourne on 26 July 2018. More information available here: https://fsc.org.au/event-list/website-events/the-summit-2018/
1 Trust the key driver in super brand reputation, AustralianSuper survey (2018)
2 MEF Global Consumer Trust Study, Mobile Ecosystem Forum (2018)