Banking – can you trust anyone anymore?

Last night’s Channel 4 Dispatches programme (Monday 23 July 2012) saw renowned reporter and broadcaster Jon Snow focus his attentions on banking and the damaging revelations about the industry’s more dubious practices.

In between explanations of what Libor means, how it was exploited through illegal collusion and interest rate–fixing, the failure of oversight by politicians and regulators, the resulting plight of small businesses (which employ 60% of the UK’s workforce), and the impact of associated scandals on everyday lives, one term that is absolutely vital in communications repeatedly surfaced – ‘TRUST’.

Trust is difficult to put a figure on, but it’s clear that it plays a crucial role in business success. It’s unlikely you consciously buy from or seek an organisation’s products or services if you believe they are inherently untrustworthy. In the case of the banks the Dispatches team conducted numerous surveys and asked the relatively straightforward question – “do you trust your bank?”

In the age of social media Dispatches effectively used the Twitter hashtag ‘#SnowBank’ to simply and effectively gauge public feeling on the issue. The answers presented were overwhelmingly negative, including:
From all of this a fundamental rule in effective Public Relations practise screams for attention – “every member of your organisation is a member of the PR team”.

  • “Dysfunctional UK banking sector intent on ripping off customers left right & centre”
  • “Looking for an ethical bank for my freelance account. Monday’s #dispatches is a reminder of why that matters”
  • “I personally don’t trust any banks. I will keep my money as far away as from them as possible”

People are understandably and increasingly sceptical of leaders and senior managers who quickly accept credit when things go well, but at the same time are all too willing to blame a ‘few bad apples’ when caught in the act of deliberately fleecing or otherwise providing a disservice to their clients.

Whether they realise it or not, all staff are brand ambassadors for their employer. How they interact with stakeholders and even what they say to friends and family about their work can have tremendous impact positively or negatively for an organisation’s reputation.

Good internal communication enabling all staff to be informed and genuinely ‘live’ a brand’s values is crucial, as is treating staff fairly and learning collectively from mistakes that will happen. Messages should match the reality of an offer – if this is not the case, grand claims of “striving to serve customer needs” will inevitably come crashing down and a business could be irreparably damaged.