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Are banks trustworthy?

By David McMillin ·
Friday, January 25, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

After headlines of money-laundering schemes, rate-fixing scandals and other PR nightmares in 2012, it looks like banks have a long way to go until they can rebuild trustworthy relationships with the public around the world. According to a new survey from Edelman, the world's largest public relations firm, consumers continue to have trouble trusting banks and financial services companies.

"The financial services industry must become more aggressive in explaining its business model and do away with terms such as 'proprietary trading.' Stakeholders have to understand how banks are making money and how the industry is working to benefits its shareholders and society," said Alan VanderMolen, president and CEO of global practices at Edelman, in a statement.

Just how far has trust fallen for the banking industry? In 2008, Edelman's Trust Barometer stood at 56 percent for banks and financial services sectors. Five years later, that number has slipped to just 45 percent. In Europe, the levels are dismal, where less than 25 percent of respondents in the U.K., Germany, Spain and Ireland trust banks.

Banks gaining ground in the US

Many readers might expect account holders in the U.S. to be leading the charge in that decline, but consumer trust in the banking industry has actually increased in the past two years. In 2011, just 25 percent of respondents ages 25-64 indicated a strong degree of trust in banks, but in 2013, that number soared to 50 percent.

As American account holders have grumbled about rising bank fees and big bonuses for bank executives, I'm surprised to see such an uptick in that trust level. Still, banks in the U.S. have yet to return to pre-financial crisis levels: in 2008, 69 percent of respondents in the Edelman survey believed that banks would naturally do what's right.

What do you think of the results? Are you more or less trusting of the banking industry than you were a few years ago? What will it take for banks to earn your trust again?

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Kevin Williams
January 26, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Ya I agree with the idea that the US stats are off. With everything that's happened and most recently the HSBC nightmare and then add in the fact no one has went to jail for anything, I find it hard to believe that trust in the banks is any higher then approval of Congress or the Republicans.

January 25, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I was a BofA customer (over 30 yrs) with a checking, savings, Money Market and mortgage. They "sold me" with less than 30 days notice-during holidays, to an unknown Mtg company (I was never late-probably why). My husband will retire in March with a very large lump sum that WAS going into that bank, but apparently they don't think I'm good enough for them. Hello new credit union.

January 25, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I would severely doubt the accuracy/competency of the US survey.

January 25, 2013 at 11:18 am

From Ray's comment I take it thats a "Don't trustem". I don't and it will be a long time before I do! When they show that they can be trusted to earn a FAIR profit and not gouge the consumer so the big wig banker boys & girls can live like Kings & Queens, then I'll consider trusting them again. They must remember TRUST is something earned.

January 25, 2013 at 10:22 am

From the consumer side, I think it is irrelevant whether banks are trustworthy. As a consumer, one needs to remember two things:
1. Make sure your savings are covered by the FDIC.
2. Read all of the fine print of any bank loan document before agreeing to it.