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Research: Financial Service Industry Says It Brought Bad Rep on Itself

Research conducted by Makovsky + Company and Echo Research finds that many comms pros at midsize and large financial services companies feel the industry is responsible for its bad reputation.

When asked “to what extent” they think financial service companies “invited negative perception because of their actions or inactions,” 96 percent said either “a great deal” or “somewhat.” More than half (53 percent) said social media had a neutral impact on their reputations while 43 percent said it had a positive impact. That same amount, 53 percent, felt that Occupy Wall Street had an impact on their business.

Despite these responses, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of research participants gave the industry a PR grade of average, above average, or even perfect (nine percent responded this way). And 69 percent think their company’s reputation is better than their top competitor’s. Wells Fargo and Bank of America sat atop a list of financial service firms perceived as having the best reputations.

And finally, 73 percent of respondents said that the marcomms function has grown in importance over the past year and 77 percent expect reputations to improve this year.

For this 2012 Makovsky Wall Street Reputation Study, Echo Research conducted 150 interviews with marcomms execs at a wide variety of financial service companies including insurance businesses, banks, and asset management firms. Interviews were conducted between February 22 and March 1, 2012.

These responses indicate to us that while the industry broadly takes responsibility for the bad rep it has, no one company wants to take personal responsibility for it. That’s really a problem. It makes for hollow apologies and continued inaction. It’s like the industry is saying, “Yeah, we brought this on ourselves… well, not us per se, but us in the biggest sense of the term ‘financial services industry.’ Yeah, so… yeah.”

Individually, financial service companies need get out there to turn things around — admit to mistakes, show customers they see the havoc they’ve caused. Perhaps everyone is waiting for the first brave soul to say or do something. We nominate Goldman Sachs, which had its ass handed to it a couple of weeks ago by one disenchanted employee. Above, a couple of “clients” chime in with their thoughts.

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