Financial firms’ reputations are regaining traction after the financial crisis, but they have a long way to go, according to Makovsky, an independent communications firm.
Makovsky on Wednesday released its 2013 Most Improved Reputation List, which ranks financial services companies.
The study was designed to determine the current state of the financial industry’s reputation and identify best practices and emerging trends, Makovsky said in a statement.
Echo Research completed 151 interviews in May with executives and managers responsible for the management and supervision of communications, investor relations or marketing at large and midsize publicly traded and private financial services institutions.
Respondents were asked, “Thinking about corporate reputation, what one financial services company has improved the most in the past 12 months?” Following are the most improved companies:
1. Wells Fargo
4. Bank of America
6. American Express
7. Merrill Lynch
8. Goldman Sachs
Makovsky said it initially presented its findings to a panel of communications executives for leading financial services brands, who discussed their work to rebuild the reputations of their companies and the industry.
The panelists concurred that there were no shortcuts to rebuilding reputations. Much of the damage from the financial crisis remained, they said, and the industry would take a long time to completely heal.
They contended that winning back the industry’s overall reputation had been hampered by a number of regulatory and legal hurdles. They saw regulations often becoming more cumbersome and a burden to consumers (e.g. the request for more documentation or information that had never been collected before).
They noted that many companies had retooled their lines of business to go back to the basics, focus on core strengths and reduce risk, and this had helped them rebuild reputation.
The executives believed that financial firms would continue to try to differentiate themselves from other companies that had problems, but understood that when one firm had a big reputation problem, it was usually a problem for everyone.
They said internal communications were increasingly critical. Financial firms’ employees must not only understand strategies, but believe in them and be able to speak to them.
The industry as a whole was spending a lot of time building internal ambassadors with a strong understanding of brand and strategy before taking messages out to the general public, they said.
Social media have become closely tied to business initiatives at financial services firms and an important tool in rehabilitating reputations, the executives said.
Financial firms would make greater use of communications platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to directly engage with consumers, and conduct more and deeper monitoring of social media sites to better gauge public impressions of programs.
“It appears that corporate reputation in the financial services industry is on a comeback, but it is a slow, fragile and sometimes dicey recovery,” Makovsky executive vice president Scott Tangney said in the statement.
“Our study indicates a very long road to strong reputation remains and the risk of recurring government actions and fines as well as other negative news will impede the entire industry’s image restoration.”
Check out Reform Is Not Enough to Restore Trust in Wall St., Experts Say on ThinkAdvisor.