James Daley

By James Daley

One of the oddities that has come up through customer polling over the past few years, is the fact that while most people don't like banks as a whole, they're generally fairly happy with their own bank. This cognitive dissonance has always intrigued me. It seems to suggest that while people don't have much trust in banks as a whole, they feel like they've managed to be one of the lucky ones, and have got a reasonably good service from their own bank over the years - against the odds.

When we founded Fairer Finance, we thought it would be useful to gain some greater insight into this apparent contradiction. So as well as asking customers how happy they are with the bank or insurer, we also asked them how much they trust them. The results were fascinating.

Love without trust

In many cases, banks have much higher happiness scores than they do trust scores - backing up the theory that many customers feel like they've got away with not getting a raw deal from their bank, but wouldn't be surprised if all that changed tomorrow.

In a small number of cases - generally with larger banks - trust in the brand is greater than happiness. In the case of HSBC, for example, customer satisfaction scores are some way below average, but its trust scores are higher and much closer to the mean. This is the better way round for companies to be. It suggests that while customers may not always be getting the service they'd like, they trust their bank's intentions, and are perhaps willing to put poor performance down to cock-up rather than conspiracy.

The very best brands, of course, win out on both elements. But it's interesting that while an astonishing 76% of First Direct customers told us that they were "extremely satisfied" with their bank, only 58% stronly agreed with the statement "I trust this brand". This speaks to a broader lack of trust in all financial services companies that will take some years to unwind. Interestingly, long-standing high street brands such as Marks & Spencer and John Lewis do better on trust in some financial sectors than even the mighty First Direct.

But there's room for all companies to improve their trust scores - and it's one of Fairer Finance's goals to play a part in helping rebuild the trust in the sector that has been lost over the past few years.