After the late-2000s (2007-2008) banking crisis, trust of consumers in the banking sector reached an all-time low. While bankers were perceived as a trusted and respected personal advisor a few decades ago, this image has significantly
deteriorated, with a steep drop following the financial crisis. Recent years banks have regained some of the trust of their customers, as the Edelman Trust Barometer depicts. The measured trust in the financial services sector reached its highest
level in 2019 since the measurements started in 2012, but with a trust-score of 57 percent, financial services remains the least-trusted sector.
For a sector built on the foundation of trust, this is alarming. Luckily research shows that although people don’t trust their bank, they do trust the overall banking system to keep their money safe at their bank. Nonetheless, this lack
of trust in most banks is clearly an opportunity. A bank, which can rapidly regain the trust of its customers, is likely to attract new customers and better retain its existing customers.
A good way to restore this trust is via corporate governance, where banks are governed in an efficient, ethical and responsible way, acting in the best interest of all stakeholders, i.e. shareholders, employees,
customers, suppliers and society as a whole. Terms like ethical banking, social banking, sustainable investing, responsible banking and financial inclusion are consequently used as buzzwords in many marketing campaigns of large banks. Recently in
September 2019, 130 banks from 49 countries (representing more than $47 trillion in assets) signed the Principles for Responsible Banking during the annual United Nations General Assembly. Via these principles the signing banks promise not to support or invest
in governments and institutions which are not respecting human rights and/or are destroying the planet.
While these sustainability initiatives should definitely be encouraged, they will most likely not have a strong positive impact on the measured “Trust” score. This trust score is best improved by changing the services
and products directly offered to the customers, i.e. a bank should help its customer better manage their finances, which means making daily banking, investing and lending as easy and fluent as possible, but at the same time clearly visualizing, quantifying
and mitigating all customer’s financial risks.
In short this means:
- Increasing transparency: provide in a transparent way the full cost structure of all products and services (during origination, but also while servicing)
- Improving financial literacy: explain the (often complex) financial products and services in layman’s terms, help customers to get better insights in their financial situation and guide them to the right product or service for their financial
- Managing financial risk: provide different tools (products and services) to help customers better manage their financial risks (market risk, liquidity risk, interest rate risk, counterparty risk…)
Today customers themselves need to find the appropriate product for their financial situation. In the future, banks should support their customers more in choosing the right product or service, but also create new innovative solutions that
combine products of different banking domains into a single customer-oriented product (for example combining investment and lending products into a single, customer-centric offering).
The ultimate goal is that customers no longer need to worry about their financial management, but instead that the bank provides different tools to mitigate all financial risks and automatically guides the customer towards the products that
are most-suited (cheapest and/or better mitigating financial risks) for the customer’s financial situation.