Brand trust is everything: what we’ve learnt from the aftermath of the Royal Commission

December 4, 2018

Our Banking Nightmare

People often equate a brand with its logo and colours, or with its products and services.

But even more important than those things is trust. 

People don’t equate branding with trust building because it often goes on behind the scenes. It takes much longer to build trust than to create a logo. And it is harder to quantify.

If I ask you if you like IBM’s logo you can probably give a quick yes or no answer. But if I ask whether you trust IBM, that’s usually a more complicated question.

I say trust is even more important to your success than your products or services. That’s because products and services come and go. Large corporations buy and sell companies all the time and even get in and out of different sectors. Remember when IBM sold laptops?

Even if you are a small company your products and services will change over time.

But trust is foundational. In the banking industry it is so important that many financial firms are called trusts.

It underlies everything you do and is at the core of your relationship with your customers.

Tales From The Royal Commission

If you live or work in Australia you’ve no doubt been following the Royal Commission investigating banking misconduct. Our four big banks: Westpac, ANZ, Commonwealth, and NAB, have all been found guilty of defrauding consumers.

ANZ overcharged home loan customers by more than 90m. NAB charged customers for advice they never received. Commonwealth failed to report on 77m worth of suspicious transactions, possibly tied to money laundering. Westpac fraudulently approved loans by inflating borrowers’ income.

These are just some of the infractions the banks have been found guilty of. Fines have been levied, shares have fallen, CEOs and directors have been fired or resigned, and public confidence in the financial sector has plummeted.

But at the end of it all the big 4 are still standing.


Companies, including large corporations, are vulnerable to annihilation when they are rocked by scandal and loss of public trust. Enron is but one example.

But when it is a whole sector that is rotten, as was the case with the big American banks, and now with our own financial services sector, the big boys count on our having no other options.

Why withdraw your money from your bank if your only choice is to put it in another bank just as untrustworthy? Unless we’re going to be like immigrants 80 years ago and put our money under the mattress, there’s no place for us to go.

So we take our money out of the same ATM, and the new bosses pay the fines and think they can do business as usual.


Technological Disruption Is Our Modern Flood

But building your business on customers who don’t trust you is a dangerous game.

One bank that does seem to have gotten the message is Wells Fargo in the U.S.

Wells Fargo was guilty of some of the most egregious crimes during the global financial crisis, including creating accounts for customers which they did not authorise in order to charge additional fees.

But they cleaned house and decided to engage with the public directly and humbly. It remains to be seen whether they will live up to this message, but it’s the kind of campaign I strongly encourage companies to follow after a breach of trust. 

Wells Fargo: Earning Back Your Trust


Will You Trust The Big Four Again? 

I encourage the Big Four not to think they are too big to fail, or that the immorality of their competitors will continue to keep them afloat.

Because tech disruption, such as Bitcoin, blockchain, and peer-to-peer lending, is to our economy what floods were to the ancient world, washing away the corruption.

And if corporations don’t build arks of trust to protect their interests, they are going to drown. 

How blockchain will disrupt banking


What are you doing in your business to build or maintain trust with your customers?

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Darren Taylor

MD & Head of Strategy and Research

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