Trust in business has plummeted to a 10-year low, according to Edelman, a global PR firm.

Cases in point:

  • Nearly two-thirds of informed consumers (62 percent) trust corporations less than they did just one year ago.
  • Only 17 percent said they trust information from a corporate CEO.

These are lower levels of trust than those Edelman measured after the Enron fiasco, the dot-com bust, and 9/11. But it gets worse. When Edelman trained its sights on the financial services industry, it found that trust among 35- to 64-year-olds dropped by nearly half, from 69 percent to 36 percent.

Trust affects bottom line
Lack of trust isn’t just an academic exercise, it affects the bottom line. For example, Edelman found that:

  • 77 percent flatly refused to buy products or services from a company they distrusted.
  • 72 percent said they’d bad-mouth a distrusted company to a friend or colleague.
  • And by a 3-to-1 margin consumers said government should intervene to regulate industries to restore public trust.

OK, this is bad news for big financial companies. But there’s a huge silver lining here for you, and here’s why: Human beings have an innate desire to trust.

If financial institutions let them down, then their trust will flow to someone who deserves it — YOU.

There is a lot working in your favor. You’re not in the headlines every day for arranging huge bonuses after accepting public funds. Rather, you’ve been seeing new clients, assessing needs, recommending appropriate strategies and products and trying your best to calm your clients in the face of media hysteria.

So how exactly do you leverage the current mistrust in big companies? Here are three actionable ideas:

Face to face
Large financial institutions are often bad at client communications. Leverage their weakness by increasing your client interactions. Send all your clients a timely news article, then set aside one day the next week to follow up with a quick call. The more you’re in their face, the more likely they will come to trust your face.

Do something positive for your clients and (gasp!) don’t charge them for it. A midterm reporting statement is excellent, but why not add a small token of your appreciation, such as a simple, handwritten card along with it? Show them that the bottom line isn’t your only line.