CHAPTER 14Are You Absolutely Sure About ‘Restoring Trust’?

If there's one thing that most people in financial services marketing accept – one statement that gets a near-universal show of assenting hands in the conference room – it's that ‘our number-one priority as an industry is restoring trust’. Carried, with very few disagreeing.

But a few do disagree, and your authors are among them. We think this statement is wrong at so many levels that it's hard to know where to start. We'll have a go in a minute. But first we need to disentangle the meaning – or more accurately meanings – of this deceptively simple five-letter word.

A curious phenomenon highlights the need for disentangling. On the one hand, journalists and consultants frequently publish research showing just how little consumers tend to trust financial institutions. (We'll quote from some of it in this chapter.) On the other hand, the institutions themselves, especially banks, regularly publish research showing that consumers do in fact trust them a great deal. What's going on? How can both be right?

There's a simple explanation. There is no single definition of trust. Psychology tells us that there are two fundamentally different kinds. In people's attitudes toward financial services firms, we'd argue there are in fact three.

The two kinds of trust recognised by psychologists carry the kinds of opaque and mystifying names that psychologists like: they call them ‘cognitive’ and ‘associative’ trust. Cognitive trust ...

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