Danny Rogers: Bankers lose trust through complacency

Trust is something that you earn, rather than 'build'. This is worth remembering as we digest the findings of Edelman's 2011 Trust Barometer, launched to much fanfare in London and Davos this week.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

Edelman, probably the world’s largest pure PR business, cleverly uses ‘trust’ as a consultancy mission. Trust is a convenient raison d’etre for any PR professional, indeed any brand or organisation.  Yet so many of these still get it wrong.
How does one engender trust? The key factors must be doing the right thing in the first place and being honest and open about what you are doing. Much easier said than done.
Trust from the British public in our institutions is lower than almost anywhere in the world.
But then we’ve always been a cynical bunch. As BBC boss Mark Thompson demonstrated at Edelman’s launch on Tuesday, trust in politicians was low even in the mid-1940s when they had just helped to stop Hitler from global domination. So what hope today?
Yet trust in British government has risen slightly over the past year. You may point out that this is in comparison with the historic nadir of the MPs’ expenses scandal, but even so there has been an improvement.

Ironically, under Downing Street’s freshly departed director of comms, Andy Coulson, things have improved. At Edelman’s launch both Thompson and Financial Times’ political editor George Parker admitted Coulson had donea good job in making government more open and transparent with the media. I would argue that his paymaster David Cameron should also be praised for his transparency agenda to date.

The difference is especially marked when one compares it with the banking sector, whose trust among the British public slumped 30 per cent over the same time period, to just 16 per cent. This was a major drop even when compared with the
peak of the banking crisis in 2008. Why is this? Because many banks have made little real effort to earn back that trust.
Indeed, at Tuesday’s event US financier Michael Cohrs – recently retired co-head of Investment Banking and head of Global Banking at Deutsche Bank – publicly admitted ‘the banks haven’t learned any lessons [from the financial crisis]. They really haven’t changed anything.’ Quite an admission.
Trust is a word easily bandied around. However, earning trust requires tangible changes in strategy and sometimes significant pain. The financial sector has somehow avoided either.

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