Advertising Age discussed a Gallup poll of consumer attitudes towards banks, which found distrust at the highest level in decades. Consumers are also on the whole more concerned about big banks than their local brethren.
From Advertising Age (hat tip reader Michael);
Only 21% of consumers polled are confident in U.S. banks, according to a survey taken in late September by Gallup. That marks an unprecedented drop from 40% in mid-July and is the lowest level of consumer confidence in banks in three decades. The 21% low easily beat the previous trough of 30% in October 1991, which occurred amid a major recession, the savings-and-loan crisis and lingering turmoil from the Gulf War.
Rocking that trust further are huge banks getting even bigger — Bank of America swallowing Merrill Lynch, Chase merging with Washington Mutual and Citibank wrestling with Wells Fargo over Wachovia. “It looks like just another manifestation of greed and protecting themselves,” said Alan Siegel, chairman of branding firm Siegel & Gale.
But not all banks are equally feeling the heat, and some local institutions are benefiting.
Unity National Bank in Miami County, Ohio, says it’s getting new customers every day from Chase branches in town. “People are saying they’re just not comfortable there,” said Julie Monnin, Unity’s marketing director. “We haven’t changed anything about the way we do business. … [But] people who before thought that maybe we were too stringent [with loan requirements] are now saying that they see why we are.”
Unity is going out of its way to make sure consumers know it’s solid. It has revamped its website to say so, adding a letter from the bank’s president and an FAQ section. It even posted the home phone numbers of its president and marketing director. It also plans to put a newspaper insert in the local press. “We want [customers] to know we’re doing fine,” Ms. Monnin said.
Gallup’s findings show that while fewer than 25% of consumers trust U.S. banks, a much healthier 66% said they had confidence in the local banks where they do business. Both numbers are down from mid-July, but while national bank confidence dropped from 40%, local bank confidence dropped from 80%.
“What people were saying is … ‘I don’t trust those other bums, [but] I believe in the people at my individual institution,'” said Douglas Berlon, Gallup global practice leader for financial services. “A lot of local banks have positioned themselves as the caregiver — we take care of you and your money,” said Fritz Grutzner, president of branding-strategy firm Brandgarten. “And in times like this, it works to their benefit.”
These findings parallel surveys about politicians, where voters often rate Congress’ performance far lower than that of their own representatives.