In these challenging financial times, the headlines speak for themselves: ‘Less than a quarter of people trust social media’, ‘Prevalent distrust in the government’, and ‘Less than half of Brits trust businesses’. With the latter being driven by executive pay issues, tax avoidance and lack of honesty and transparency, where does that leave the world of financial services?

In 1694 when the UK took its first step towards building this £119 billion industry, the original Royal Charter stated that the Bank of England was founded to ‘Promote the public good and benefit of our people’. Over 300 years later, would consumers say the industry is living up to its founding principles? Maybe not.

Research carried out by PWC revealed just how low trust in financial services companies has sunk. Fewer than one in three consumers trust their bank, and for other types of financial services companies, ratings are even lower. If this was just down to the financial crisis, you’d think that ten years on we’d have an industry that had dusted itself off, learnt its (very expensive) lessons and was back in favour. Trust is still being eroded as a result of the seemingly incessant wave of scandals, the general perception of overpaid executives, the feeling that policies and regulatory responses have yet to deliver real change, and the absence of other remedies for customers to resort to.

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However, there is a small glimmer of hope. The historic relationships established providers have built with consumers – who still trust them as guardians of their finances, if not as customer-focused service providers – endure and offer a foundation on which to build for the future.

The FCA Financial Lives 2018 survey reported that 62% of people prefer to stick to a known brand and that figure rises to 85% for those aged 75 and over. Whether that’s because of apathy or distrust of the new digital players, it gives the big names a chance to win back their trust and their business.

With consumer confidence showing healthy signs and consumers’ own financial situation on the up, there’s never been a better time to strike while the iron’s hot. However, market uncertainty coupled with the usual monthly financial pressures, is still adding an extra layer of caution for savers and investors alike. After all, there’s no point putting away £200 a month for tomorrow if people can’t pay the mortgage today.

We’re also seeing customers becoming bamboozled by the breadth of choice and complex nature of financial products. Holidays provide a great example of how doing your own research could save you up to £1,300 by booking a hotel and flights separately. Who wouldn’t want that? With financial services, where what you’re buying is complex, serious and has long-term effects, it’s easy to get lost down a rabbit hole and lose focus. The result? Consumers switch off and do nothing which can contribute to a shaky financial future.

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Our financial decisions are at the heart of what’s important to us and our families, and this is where money becomes emotive. Whether we’re in boom or bust, our over-riding need for reassurance means trust is ultimately king.

So, whether it’s solving customer pain points, investing in smarter technology, focusing on social purpose or making sure data security and privacy is paramount, it all goes some way to gaining back the trust and ultimately that all-important competitive advantage.

If you’re interested in learning more about trends affecting the financial services industry, contact Jack Thompson on 0117 9270100 or jack.thompson@saintnicks.uk.com.