Banks: want to earn our trust? It’s simple

I was on a crowded train last week. Opposite me was one of those inconsiderate people who won’t move their stuff to give everyone more room. ‘I bet you’re a banker, aren’t you?’ blurted a fellow passenger.

Oh dear. Can banks fix the fact they’re now a go-to metaphor for the worst of humankind?

We think so.

They’re always talking about ‘regaining the public’s trust’. Which is admirable. But trust is an abstract concept. We think all too often they’re missing something that’s right under their noses. So, it seems, do the regulators.

Only this week the financial services rulemakers ticked banks off for making simple information about savings accounts hard to make sense of (and hard to find). They said banks should help us check how our savings accounts measure up by giving us ‘clearer, more timely information’.

What kind of people do you trust? I know I’m more likely to trust a car mechanic or a plumber who explains things carefully, who helps me understand.

Banks could turn things around just by getting better at doing that.

They should. And they should do more to explain all their products and services clearly. If I really get what an offset mortgage is, I’ll feel better about choosing one. If I can read Ts and Cs without scratching my head, I’ll know where I stand. If there are clear choices, I’ll be more confident about my decisions.

We’ve seen clients really improve relationships with customers by making everything they write easy to understand. From letters and emails to brochures and websites. By being crystal clear even about the downsides.

We all know that trust is earned. Banks will be better at earning it by steadily and thoroughly making everything they say as clear and simple as possible.

Then maybe ‘banker’ will stop being a dirty word.


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on Jan 23, 2015

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