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Consumers Rate Most Trustworthy Financial Firms: Hearts & Wallets

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Hearts & Wallets released a survey on Wednesday that identified which financial institutions consumers were more likely to trust.

(Related: 2016′s Top 10 Life Insurance Providers Ranked by NAIC)

Regional bank SunTrust and insurance bank USAA were among the top performers, with two-thirds of consumers surveyed giving them high marks in trust. Hearts & Wallets noted that those firms earned consumers trust despite being in the bank category, which consumers rated poorly overall.

“Trust should be an important success metric to all providers,” Laura Varas, CEO and founder of Hearts & Wallets, said in a statement.

Varas said that Hearts & Wallets’ ongoing research has shown that “higher trust is related to higher consumer saving, a greater willingness to seek help, more openness to new solutions and better financial health.”

She added, “Both consumers and the industry benefit by increasing trust. Although the trust recipe is complex, consumer understanding of how a company earns money is number one of several drivers of trust.”

The survey measured consumer trust in financial institutions across multiple business models, including banks, investment firms and retirement plan providers. It asked more than 5,000 households about the level of trust they had in various financial institutions, and whether they would invest in them or recommend them to someone else.

The report found that the average consumer uses 1.8 financial institutions, and 70% of consumers have a relationship with a bank.

Overall, trust is trending up, the report found. The latest survey found 43% of respondents reported high levels of trust in their main providers, compared with 39% in 2013. Almost 80% of respondents gave a trust rating of seven or higher on a 10-point scale.

Additionally, the percentage of consumers who are likely to increase their investments at firms where they already have most of their assets is trending up: from 30% in 2013 to 33% last year.

Wealthier consumers reported more trust in their financial institutions. The report noted wealthier households had a better understanding of how their firms earn money and were more confident in their own instincts.

However, consumers were almost twice as likely to use a self-service financial institution as a full-service (41% versus 21%), including wealthier consumers. There may be opportunities for advisors to serve more affluent consumers, though, as self-service adoption has been slipping since 2015 in the $100,000-$500,000 and $2 million-plus segments.

The report found 42% of consumers said banks are their primary source of retirement advice. Almost the same percentage said a full- or self-service brokerage firm was their main retirement advice provider. Just 3% said a robo-advisor, investment manager or “other” was their primary source of advice.

On retirement, the survey found Edward Jones, Morgan Stanley and Ameriprise rated most highly, followed closely by Charles Schwab, Fidelity and Merrill Lynch.

— Read Senate Moves to Block Retirement Plans Run by States, Cities on ThinkAdvisor.


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