Apparently Customers Think Financial Institutions Are All Liars

In April, Harris conducted an online poll of U.S. adults aged 18 and over.

Among the findings:

Gen Y is the most trusting. Or maybe Gen Y is just too young, too idealistic or too naïve to know better. Gen Y is across the board more likely to find statements made by financial companies more believable than older generations. Only 28% of Gen Y don’t believe statements made by banks, whereas 45% of Boomers distrust banks’ claims.

Banks are relatively credible. The operative word here is “relatively.” The Harris poll clearly shows trust in all types of financial institutions is, well… dismal. But what banks have to say is more believable than investment firms, mortgage lenders and credit card companies. Only accounting firms are seen as more credible than banks.

Credit card companies are pretty much downright liars. Nearly two-thirds of respondents distrust what credit card companies have to say, a full 26 points worse than banks (wow). It would seem that years and years of microscopic, multipage disclosures about things like Universal Default have finally caught up to credit card issuers.

Democrats distrust banks more than Republicans. 44% of Democrats don’t believe what banks have to say, but only 30% of Republicans feel the same way. A whopping 70% of Democrats don’t believe anything credit card companies have to say. Unsurprisingly, Democrats’ faith in government agencies is better; only 40% are likely to disbelieve financial regulators, while significantly more Republicans (65%) don’t think these governmental bodies can be trusted.

How believable are statements made by these companies?

Type of
Not At All
Accounting firms 5% 62% 33%
Banks 4% 57% 38%
Investment firms 2% 52% 45%
Health insurance companies 2% 49% 49%
Mortgage companies 2% 47% 51%
Gov’t agencies regulating
financial institutions
4% 43% 53%
Credit card companies 2% 34% 64%

Breakdown of respondents who said ‘not believable at all’

Type of
Gen Y Gen X Boomers 65+ Rep. Dem.
Accounting firms 26% 37% 36% 33% 26% 38%
Banks 28% 40% 45% 40% 30% 44%
Investment firms 36% 49% 50% 48% 38% 50%
Health insurance companies 41% 52% 54% 48% 36% 56%
Mortgage companies 39% 53% 57% 58% 42% 57%
Gov’t agencies regulating
financial institutions
35% 57% 59% 64% 65% 40%
Credit card companies 56% 68% 69% 64% 56% 70%

Bottom Line: The issue is one of trust. It takes a long time for any industry to build up levels of trust that can help them weather crises. Since this crisis is one that negatively impacts people’s wallets, trust erodes even more quickly than normal, and takes much longer to rebuild.

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