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Consumers Around the World Deeply Distrust the Financial Industry

The financial services industry ranked dead last in a recent study of global consumer trust, a report that also revealed widespread suspicions about a variety of institutions from government to the media.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, a wide-ranging survey of consumers around the world conducted by the Chicago-based Edelman public relations firm, financial services ranked dead last behind the energy, consumer packaged goods, food and beverage, and technology industries. But these overall numbers might have been dragged down by deeper distrust abroad than at home: In the United States, 60% of respondents said they trusted the financial services industry, compared to 45% in the United Kingdom and 35% in Germany.

Perhaps most critically for those who work in the reverse-mortgage space, Edelman provided an interesting peek into marketing strategies that consumers trust most. “A person like yourself” now ties with “technical expert” and “academic expert” for the title of most trusted spokesperson, with 60% of respondents vouching for their authority. Only 37% of the group said CEOs were trustworthy, with “government official/regulator” coming in dead last at 29%.

Consumers also indicated that they trusted rank-and-file employees to speak on behalf of businesses more than any other person on just about every topic, from views on industry issues to business practices to corporate earnings and performance.

Edelman thus recommends that businesses “use a human voice,” pointing to data that shows consumers trust social media messages from businesses far more than advertisements.

The report features a telling quote from Michael Gove, a member of the United Kingdom parliament: “People in this country have had enough of experts.”

Workers and executives in the financial sector should take heart, though, that they remain more trusted than the media and government: Just 41% of those surveyed said they trust their governments while only 43% said they trust media reportage.

In a year that saw the ascension of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency on a wave of populism and America-first sentiment, these results should perhaps not come as too much of a surprise. Belief and trust in institutions has been on the decline around the world, along with rising fears about globalization and economic opportunity for working-class citizens.

For instance, Edelman surveyed British voters about their fears, and found that 54% of those who voted to leave the European Union were afraid about the future, while only 27% who cast ballots to stay felt the same. In the United States, 67% of Trump voters were afraid, compared to only 45% of those who voted for his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Written by Alex Spanko