Financial markets have taken a beating recently and so too has US consumer perceptions of insurers, financial advisers and other financial services companies, reveals a survey by US public relations agency Cohn & Wolfe.
The survey found that consumer trust in the financial services industry has dropped significantly when compared with a similar survey conducted by Cohn & Wolfe 18 months ago. In the earlier survey, 67 percent of respondents said they had trust in the industry, while in the latest survey four out of 10 respondents said their trust had deteriorated.
When asked to list words describing financial services companies, respondents to the latest survey took an exceptionally negative stance.
The words “greedy” and “impersonal” were each selected by 32 percent of respondents, “opportunistic” by 26 percent and “distant from me” by 22 percent. Respondents could select multiple answers.
As concerning was a minimal selection of positive descriptions of financial services companies.
The words “sympathetic” and “transparent’ were each selected by 3 percent of respondents, “ethical” by five percent, “honest” by 10 percent and “trustworthy” by 13 percent.
Also reflecting consumers’ lack of confidence, 66 percent of respondents said they do not believe the financial services industry will help them regain wealth lost during the financial crisis. Only 8 percent said they did expect help and the remainder said they did not know.
The single bright spot in the survey noted Cohn & Wolfe was retail banks, which 59 percent of consumers said they “trust the most”. This explained the agency could possibly be a function of the fact that bank deposits are insured.
“Public perceptions about the financial services industry are terrible,” said Cohn & Wolfe executive vice-president Matt Wolfrom. He added that the survey showed one key reason for distrust is that companies have not connected with consumers who feel they need advice and information during these challenging times.
“Companies that engage with consumers will find their brands are rewarded with more loyalty – and business,” advised Wolfrom.