Two industries that can be taken as weather-vanes of trust in business are the financial sector and media: both subject to alarmist news stories (from the threat of a new global recession to the imminent demise of traditional media). These stories affect how consumers, audiences and other stakeholders view the two industries: the effect is felt in trust levels as much as in purchasing decisions.
But how does this market volatility affect consumer trust in the banking world, particularly given the banks’ role in in the GFC? We asked Asia-Pacific Association of Communication Directors member Eileen Lau of Asia ING for her insights:
Does economic instability erode trust in financial institutions?
I’m not sure if economic instability is a direct factor that erodes trust in banks – customers may be more cautious and concerned and they may be looking for financial advice and seeking expert opinions. If banks can play this role and help them stay a step ahead of the volatility and uncertainty, then it becomes an opportunity for financial institutions to rebuild customer trust.
What kind of conversations go on within your company about the fight to hold onto trust among your publics?
We have discussions about how to listen to what our customers really want and need from us, and how to use data analytics to be much faster and more effective at reading customer preferences in order to offer that to them. We talk about truly engaging our customers through social media and our brand campaigns. We talk about being authentic, which means that we have to change ourselves – our corporate mindset and everyday behaviour – from being yesterday’s bankers to today’s financial advisors who demonstrate every day that they have their customers’ interests at heart. For example, an investment banker could advise his client not to do a mergers and acquisitions deal because it’s not right for the client even though this means the bank will not get any big fee pay-out if the transaction does not happen. When this behaviour becomes more common we will regain their trust.
How do you monitor trust levels in your industry and your company?
We use a range of methods. These include analysing third party data and reports, customer feedback coming through various channels and our own surveys.
What are the biggest challenges to trust in the financial sector in 2016?
Rebuilding trust that has been squandered is a difficult and long process – and it doesn’t help that financial institutions are still in the news today with freshly dug up regulatory scandals, very public turn-over of top management and shareholder unhappiness over strategy execution or lack thereof. That being said, there are pockets of real change happening that nobody can deny – some banks are making concerted efforts to truly connect with their customers through products that are simpler to understand, being accessible 24/7 through digital and other smart devices, partnering with fintechs to speed up innovation and recognising that people need banking services but don’t actually want to spend too much of their precious time doing it. Getting all these elements right and staying out of regulatory trouble are the two top challenges for the next few years.