On June 16, Edelman Chicago hosted the 2016 Edelman Financial Services Trust Barometer breakfast, which brought together industry executives for a discussion on the state of trust within the sector. Deidre Campbell, global sector chair of Edelman’s Financial Services practice, presented sector-specific findings and shared insights about the growing disparity in trust between the mass population and informed public. Following the presentation, we convened a robust discussion on how financial services companies can build trust.

Globally, financial services ranks the lowest among all industries in levels of public trust. Despite remaining the least trusted sector among the general population, trust in financial services has improved – from 43 percent in 2012 to 51 percent in 2016 on a global basis – the biggest five-year upward trend of all sectors.

Why does this matter? Because even though trust is on the rebound, there is still much to be done when it comes to building trust in the financial services sector.

The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that while financial services is the least trusted sector among the general population, it is the most trusted as an employer among employees working in the sector. In fact, 80 percent of financial services employees trust their own company to do the right thing, which is an incredible 28 points above the industry in general.

Moreover, the employee voice is trusted over authorities – such as the CEO and senior leaders – on a broad range of issues, including communicating financial earnings and operational performance; business practices and handling a crisis; and treatment of employees and customers.

Combined, these two findings reveal huge opportunities for financial services companies to focus elements of their communications marketing programs on employees, lest they risk leaving behind perhaps their strongest and most trusted advocates.

Here are three tips for igniting your most powerful advocate, your employees:

  1. Expand your social media reach beyond corporate channels and approved spokespeople. Encouraging employees to share content on social will help humanize your brand and increase awareness. While companies can equip employees with shareable content, they should also encourage employees to share what they are proud of and what they are working on.
  2. Develop a set of guidelines for employees on what constitutes appropriate online behavior. A number of employee advocacy tools are available with safeguards to ensure sharing that’s authentic, yet in compliance with any regulatory guidelines.
  3. Empower your most passionate employees to be storytellers on behalf of your company. While all employees should have the right to have a voice, targeting employees that are naturally communicative and influential will allow your messages to organically reach a large and diverse network.

Julie Crothers is a senior vice president with Financial Communications in Chicago.
Tamara Snyder is a senior vice president with Employee Engagement in Chicago.