US financial services brands are struggling to earn high levels of customer trust. Forrester’s Financial Services Customer Trust Index (FS Trust Index) revealed that customer trust in US financial services firms in 2023 was relatively weak and largely unchanged from 2022. Only US banks managed a measurable improvement in average trust scores, and even that was small. Only one of the 16 banks we ranked earned what we consider a strong level of trust.

Trust In US Banks Increased Modestly Year Over Year, Despite The Banking Crisis

Customer trust in US banks saw a modest (but statistically significant) 0.7 percentage-point year-over-year improvement despite the turmoil of the failure of several US banks. But the industry average trust score remained weak in 2023, as it was in 2022.

  • The improvement in customer trust on average came from small increases overall in how banks performed on the seven levers of trust, including the most important lever: dependability.
  • Well-publicized runs on deposits at three banks in early 2023 didn’t adversely impact retail banking customers’ sentiments – indicating most consumers don’t know (or don’t care), likely because their deposits weren’t impacted. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s actions to protect depositors may also have helped bolster trust in US banks.

Few Firms Achieved High Levels of Customer Trust

Average trust scores were also weak for US auto and home insurers in 2023. US credit card brands and US investment firms fared slightly better with moderate trust among customers in 2023. Across the 53 US auto and home insurance, banking, credit card, and investment brands we analyzed:

  • Four received a strong score (down from six in 2022): Morgan Stanley, Edward Jones, Ameriprise, and Navy Federal Credit Union.
  • Only seven saw a statistically significant increase in their score from 2022 to 2023, five of which were bank brands.

Lack Of Empathy Remains A Problem

Customers want US financial services firms to be dependable and empathetic. But financial services firms continue to fail their customers when it comes to empathy, which is by far the weakest (but one of the most important) levers of trust.

Lack of empathy poses immediate concerns as consumers grapple with financial challenges stemming from persistent levels of inflation and rising interest rates. Prolonged economic pressure will add to customers’ anxiety over their financial security. Financial services firms have a unique opportunity to earn customer trust by understanding these anxieties and taking proactive measures. They can provide tools and support to help customers become more confident with their finances despite economic uncertainties.

Trust Matters – But It’s Hard To Earn And Easy To Burn, So Measure It!

Why does trust matter? When customer trust is strong, financial services firms reap financial, competitive, and reputational benefits, enabling them to expand and extend customer relationships. When it’s weak, they lose those benefits and have to fight harder to win business.

Firms can earn and strengthen trust, but it’s hard because a broad range of customer perceptions and experiences accumulate over time to produce it. Every engagement with a customer is an opportunity to earn, reinforce, or destroy trust. Losing trust, however, is easy.

To earn more trust from customers, financial services firms must design and execute deliberate trust strategies. But first they must stop guessing and 1) measure trust in their brand and 2) understand what drives customer trust in it. Although data alone can’t tell business leaders what and how to improve, there are many ways they can use data to identify opportunities to earn trust and to avoid damaging it.

To learn more, check out The US Financial Services Customer Trust Index Rankings, 2023 and Introducing Forrester’s Financial Services Customer Trust Index.