Trust is a hard currency: research
Wednesday, 21 April 2010 12:10pm
By Ruth Liew  |  In Investment

New research shows that investors rank 'fee transparency' as the number one reason for trusting a financial institution while in a surprise result, 'bad press' and 'being owned by a bank' count for little.

Sally Wells, managing director of endgame communications, said a huge component of investors and clients' trust in a financial brand stems from openness of communication.

In AXA's case, Wells believes more communication is required to explain the firm's position to stakeholders.

"I think the best job they can do to sustain their brand is to communicate as much as they can," said Wells.

"We believe that saying nothing is really saying 'something' - the worse thing they can do is to be completely quiet on it."

That said, Wells acknowledged that it's a "tricky one" for AXA because they are bound by legalities which might hamper their ability to communicate with stakeholders such as investors and planners.

Commenting on the US Securities and Exchange Commission fraud charge against Goldman Sachs, Wells said the same message of communication applies.

Wells worked with research house Investment Trends to study hundreds of communication messages and strategies coming out of financial firms in the US and UK last year.

"There was so little coming out into the market place ... saying nothing is a big mistake and [could] mean that you've got something to hide," she said.

Wells' comments followed new research by Investment Trends that revealed communication and transparency are highly valued by investors on the issue of trust.

The top factor people sought out is fee transparency when placing their trust in financial services companies, according to the research. Nearly 70 per cent of 222 people surveyed said they would trust a financial services company that was open about their fees.

Coming in second at 60 per cent is financial services firms actually doing what they said they would. Being a long-time customer at the institution is the third factor that influences this trust, at 59 per cent. Not far behind at 56 per cent is the contactability of the firm and availability of a person to speak to.

Contrary to popular belief that bad press often shatters customers' trust in a company, the survey shows the absence of bad press only ranked 15th on the list at 21 per cent.

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