Deloitte Partners Andy Bateman (Strategy) and Willem Punt (Conduct) point out you’d have to be a proverbial ostrich to say we don’t have a problem with trust! In this abridged version of an opinion editorial first published in Australian Financial Review 4/4/18 they position trust as practical, visible and measurable. They outline how to be surgical where it fails, find out why, and show how to fix it.

Whether in social media, politically, or in the slow, deliberate, and painful dismantling of banking practices at the Royal Commission, it is clear that the financial services industry has to get practical about fixing the root causes of the failures of trust.

But to fix a problem as foundational as trust, we have to first understand the problem. To pull it apart and look at what causes or erodes trust.

In a recent sentiment survey sent to Senior Executives in the sector in Australia – three data points stood out. First, that the impact of the Royal Commission will be almost as important to the sector as the Australian economy. That almost 50% believe the operating environment is deteriorating, and 70% believe we could be doing a better job of monitoring outcomes for customers. In fact, the top three impacts over the next 24 months are seen as regulatory change, customer experience, and issues around conduct and culture.

So what does the sector believe is the root cause? Just two words, ethics and alignment.

These two are equally seen as important drivers of trust – more than 50 times more important than products and service and competence in delivery. So if we want to get trust back – we need to start with the ethical behaviour of our people – and align that with our customers’ needs.

Trust: the promises you make – and those you keep.

Our work in conduct, customer experience, reputation, brand and risk has led us to a simple definition of trust across three dimensions. At its most fundamental level, trust is built by doing what you said you would; fairly, transparently and by helping customers solve their problems with suitable products and services.

If trust then is about the promises you make and those you keep – we can see it delivered ethically, competently and with customer alignment.

  1. Trust management then, begins with an assessment of behaviour. Ask honestly if you know what promises you make to your customers? Do you really want to keep them? Do you truly care about their outcomes? And are you fulfilling them ethically – with the care, honesty and transparency that our customers need?
  2. Secondly, do your processes, platforms and people allow you to keep the promises you make? Or are you just unable, despite your best intentions, to keep them?
  3. Thirdly, are you and your customers aligned? Are your products and services suitable? Do you work towards the same goals? Or do you just think you do?

It’s these three sets of questions, that determine whether you are worthy of being trusted.

So, what interferes with this ability to keep our promises and be trustworthy?

The most important element is to be ethical. To treat people as people, not only as contracts. To be honest, fair and thoughtful.

For example, we’ve all experienced the frustration of trying to understand the fine print of terms and conditions, and then feeling short changed when we lose the experience we were promised.

To achieve that quality customer experience, organisations must be led and managed by people who want to keep their promises. The first condition of trustworthiness is ethics.

However after years of research and consulting in the field of organisational ethics we concluded that ethics, while fundamentally important, are not enough. Most organisational leaders have ethical intent, but the conduct of the organisation can lack competence and capability. People, systems or processes may simply be inadequate and so cause you to be unable to keep your promises. So the second condition of trustworthiness is capability.

Finally, when considering trust in a commercial setting – and in financial services in particular – ethics and capability are still not enough. Becoming the conduct risk officer for a major banking group, or leading a global marketing and branding company, drove home the message to us that in a commercial context, ethics and capability must be complemented by ‘aligning’ a company and its customers.

By alignment we mean turning customer vulnerability into customer empowerment. We mean clear, suitable and value adding products and services, that account for a customer’s circumstances and let them make informed choices. Customers experience the ethics and capability of a company through its service and products. They need to be aligned to their circumstances.

In summary – to be able to keep our promises we need ethics, capability and alignment. These are the measurable, practical and predictive ways to achieve trust when considered together. They make a matrix of meaning for trust. In this way we don’t just describe trust, we anticipate it. We don’t just diagnose it, we can predict for it.

Contact our team to discover more about how best to measure, design for and manage for trust here.

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