Financial services' reps on par with tobacco, finds study

ROCHESTER, NY: The reputation of the financial services industry fell to its lowest point in a decade, according to the 10th Annual Harris Interactive Reputation Quotient (RQ) survey. The industry shares an 11% positive rating with the tobacco industry.

ROCHESTER, NY: The reputation of the financial services industry fell to its lowest point in a decade, according to the 10th Annual Harris Interactive Reputation Quotient (RQ) survey. The industry shares an 11% positive rating with the tobacco industry.

The RQ survey focuses on six areas that influence reputation and consumer behavior: social responsibility, emotional appeal, financial performance, products and services, vision and leadership, and workplace environment. A score above 80 reflects an excellent reputation. Scores for many of the financial services and auto companies on the list fell considerably below that rating.

American International Group (AIG) in its first showing on the list recorded the lowest RQ score since Enron's in 2005. It ranked last among the companies at number 60.

Washington Mutual, Citigroup, and Merrill Lynch were among the other financial service organizations on the list, all with scores that show poor reputations.

“Our study indicates just how hard it will be for many financial services firms to regain the trust of both the public at large and their customers,” said Robert Fronk, Senior Vice President, Senior Consultant, Reputation Strategy at Harris Interactive, in a statement. “And unfortunately, these companies have extremely high familiarity and recall of corporate communications, but are not seen as being sincere, transparent, accurate, or consistent in their communications, all of which have a very high correlation with positive reputation.”

The ranking of the embattled American auto industry tallied the greatest drop this year. GM, at number 58, had among the largest one-year declines in the survey's history. Toyota ranked number 10.

Overall, the survey found that 88% of American said the reputation of corporate America is “not good” or “terrible.” However, there were bright spots, including Johnson & Johnson, which came in at number one for the eighth time in the study's history. Sony jumped from number 16 to number three (number two was Google). Rounding out the top six were Coca-Cola, Kraft, and Amazon.com. These six companies scored above 80.

Wal-Mart, which was the only company to show an actual increase in its reputation score, came in at number 36.

The RQ study surveys more than 25,000 American consumers via online and telephone interviews, first to identify the 60 most visible companies and then to rank them. The entire process was executed between September 2008 and February 2, 2009.

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