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éist Public Trust in Banking Survey

In 2021, the IBCB commissioned our first ever survey of Public Trust in Banking. Following a tender process, we selected Edelman Data and Intelligence to design and conduct the survey using their globally recognised methodology for assessing trust – the Edelman Trust Management Diagnostic. Through application of the Edelman methodology, we can benchmark the findings for Irish banking with comparative international data. This allows us to gauge how the Irish industry compares globally on key aspects of culture and behaviour and overall trust. Our previous Public and Stakeholder Consultation report in 2019 was a qualitative report, which gave us insight into areas of concern from members of the public and stakeholders.  Our éist Public Trust in Banking Survey provides us with quantitative information, with a repeatable methodology to allow us to measure and monitor public trust in banking over time.

This survey was conducted during the Spring of 2021 a period characterised by immense pressures for many bank customers, staff and the wider economy due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, there were a number of material announcements from IBCB member banks during this period which will result in changes to organisational structures and the wider banking market in Ireland.

The survey took the form of an online questionnaire, with 1,007 members of the general population of Ireland and over 251 Irish SME business decision-makers or owners, with a particular focus on micro businesses (defined as having an annual turnover of up to €2,000,000). The Edelman Net Trust Score (ENTS) provides a singular, numerical score of the sector or organisation’s trust level and where it’s heading, broken down into high, neutral, and low trust. ENTS is calculated by high trust minus low trust. The ENTS score is measured using four key trust dimensions; Ability, Dependability, Integrity, and Purpose.

The survey shows that trust levels in Irish banking remain low and are significantly behind the global benchmark. The Irish industry scores a composite score of -28 which compares with +16 for the global benchmark.  An interesting insight points to trust levels increasing when comparing ‘the banks’ (-28) in other words, views of the overall industry, versus views of ‘my bank’ (-10) and ‘my branch’ (-5).  This points to the impact of continued entrenched views about the overall sector that are difficult to change, but much better trust levels in the individual bank that the customer does business with, and trust levels being greater again where there is a local dimension and interaction. The results show that many of the concerns we heard in our 2019 Public and Stakeholder Consultation report remain areas of concern for customers today.

There are clear differences in levels of trust in banks across age groups, with the younger demographic (18-24) expressing greater levels of trust than older age groups;

  • Trust levels are lower for those living in rural areas compared with urban areas;
  • SMEs report higher levels of trust in banks than the general population, albeit still low from an international perspective;
  • Within the SME population, micro enterprises are less trusting and emphasise their need for more direct accessibility and engagement with their banks.
  • Customers are concerned about the reduced ‘human interface’ of banks and how this impacts their day-to-day relationship with their bank, particularly in rural Ireland. There remain significant concerns from a number of customer groups regarding integrity and how the industry supports customers in a vulnerable position and smaller businesses.
  • Positives include sentiment relating to the quality of service and products, the competence of staff and sentiment towards branches, which offer real opportunity for the industry to build on, to help the journey towards rebuilding trust and leverage the positive developments as indicated by the findings of the staff survey.

An area of disappointment was that despite the supports put in place by the industry during the pandemic via payment breaks, additional supports for customers in vulnerable positions and schemes such as the SBCI Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme, which involved significant effort from staff at all levels, in particular in front line branches, this has not resulted in an overall improvement in trust levels. The results show a small minority (higher in SMEs) who report that their trust levels in banks have increased during the pandemic and point to an opportunity for the sector to build on this via continued supports for customers through the next phase of dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic on the economy. Overall, it is clear that there remains significant levels of mistrust with much of the public and changing this perception is very difficult.

The survey breaks down perceptions of trust in IBCB member banks using the four trust dimensions. Again, we see variances between age groups, between members of the general population and SMEs.

  • Ability and Integrity are the main drivers of trust with the general population. IBCB members perform best generally in Ability measures but score lower on perceptions of critical Integrity behaviours;
  • For SMEs, Ability and Dependability are the main drivers of trust. Looking at these scores from the perspective of SMEs, IBCB member banks perform better on measures of Ability but score lower on Dependability & Accountability.

The results of the Public Trust in Banking Survey will shape the areas of focus in our work programme in 2021/22 and beyond. We intend conducting this survey on an annual basis.