Trust me, I’m a banker!

Top 10 of themes for banks to consider about building trust with their customers

Trust is a rare commodity when it comes to the Financial Services industry. Overall, this sector isn’t great at self-promoting, and cynicism is a big challenge when banks stand up to speak or attempt to share their stories. Their message sometimes comes across as too rehearsed, and manipulative, which isn’t what they intended it to be. Overall, it sounds like the public is after more authenticity.

So what can banks do about that state of affairs? What should they consider when trying to build up trust with the general public?

1. Bold leadership is key

One of the challenges local teams / overall organisations often encounter is the difficulty of getting the leadership on board with the need to invest in changing perceptions ; it is often a low priority as the direct benefits often seem intangible or too long term to be one leader’s main agenda, and they know that trust and perception changes often require a deeper cultural transformation. Buy-in from the CEO is key to initiate any sizeable cultural change.

2. Not just a PR thing

The challenge for banks is to identify the best way to influence perceptions, as large investments in adverts and slogans do not automatically equate to a good reputation. It takes a lot more than words – tangible actions are what will make a difference to the general public.

3. One size doesn’t fit all

There isn’t one magic recipe that banks can summon to get out of a reputational rut. Each will have to reflect on what their tone of voice is, what their message is, and overall, what type of connection they want to establish with their customers and the general public.

4. Long-term over short-term

Changing trust level and perceptions isn’t a short-term thing and cannot be done by moving just lever. Be ready to commit to this effort for a while, as fruits won’t be reaped after only a few months.

5. Emotional connections

Trust is something quite fragile, hard to build and very easily damaged – it goes beyond the rational mind and appeals to the emotional part of each individual, and takes a lot of effort to build up again. It takes something strong and impactful to create it in the first place.

6. Context matters

Overall, the mood of the nation has an impact and influences which messages resonate more than others. Banks need to be mindful of this when crafting their message or initiatives plan, as the way these will be received can vary greatly depending on what else is taking place at any time.

7. Local versus national

Having a local impact is a great way to rebuild trust. Banks should consider how they want to invest in building trust and reflect on the difference of impact between the national and local scales.

Influencing locally requires banks to devolve decision-making power to local teams, and therefore cannot be just a PR exercise – it requires an overall look at how teams are empowered internally.

8. Brand is all

A bank’s brand is often seen as its largest asset – and therefore investing in protecting it against its erosion should always be a priority, not an after thought or something confined only to Marketing.

9. Customer is king

Focusing on making customers feel safe and therefore reinforcing the trust they place in their banks is a good place to start – and building this safety can start with educating customers on how to make the most of them. Check out Barclays and their digital eagles for an example of this. Making customers feel safe should be something tangible though, not another empty marketing message.

10. Focus on your core

There is a risk in over-communicating as a knee-jerk reaction to a decrease in trust – instead of bombarding their audiences with discording or conflicting messages, banks should focus their message on what they do best, what differentiates them from their competitors. This is the thing they can be fully genuine about, and on which they’ll want to make their voice loud and clear.