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Survey: Consumers Trust Banks More Than the Federal Government


Written by Kamaron McNair | Published on 7/06/2021

 

With a prime opportunity to prove their dedication to customers and constituents, banks and the federal government took various actions to help Americans through the COVID-19 pandemic, but was one working harder than the other? Perhaps, as 73% of consumers say they trust their financial institutions, versus just 51% who feel the same about the government regarding banking and personal finance.

In times of crises, it’s natural for humans to look for other people or institutions for support and, in turn, decide whom or what they can trust. The coronavirus crisis has proved no different with the subsequent economic fallout — and ongoing recovery — making many consumers question who is on their side. DepositAccounts surveyed more than 900 consumers with bank accounts to see where they’re putting their trust.

In this article we will cover:
 

Key findings

  • Consumers have more faith in their financial institutions than in the federal government. 73% of consumers trust their financial institution to keep their best interest in mind, while only 51% say the same about the federal government regarding banking and personal finance.
  • The pandemic impacted consumers’ loyalty to their financial institution, primarily in a positive way. Overall, 71% say their financial institution did right by consumers during the pandemic, and 30% feel more loyal to their financial institution as a result.
  • Baby boomers trust their financial institution more than any other generation, while Gen Zers trust banks the least. Baby boomers have the highest level of trust in their institution regarding personal data protection, asset protection and keeping their best interest in mind, while Gen Zers are the least trusting.
  • While most consumers trust their financial institution, annual percentage yield (APY) reductions often break that trust. 43% say APY rate reductions cause them to trust their financial institution less, and more than a third of those who switched banks during the pandemic name APYs as a reason.
  • Those who bank with traditional brick-and-mortar institutions or credit unions generally have more faith in their financial institution than those who primarily use an online-only bank. For example, 75% with a brick-and-mortar bank and 74% with a credit union trust their financial institution to keep their best interest in mind, versus 61% with an online-only bank.

In bank we trust

Consumers struggling through the crisis may have relied on support from either or both their financial institutions and the federal government. While the government’s assistance included unemployment benefits and stimulus checks, some banks have worked hard to maintain loyalty and support customers throughout the pandemic with waived fees or other services.

Banks’ efforts may be paying off, as 73% of consumers say they trust their financial institutions to have their best interests in mind. With just 51% of respondents saying they trust the government with their financial interests, perhaps elected officials could take a lesson from the banks.

 

“The government is often associated with an uncaring bureaucracy,” DepositAccounts founder Ken Tumin says. “A bank that provides good customer service and competitive products can have an advantage in generating more trust.”

For consumers, however, these sentiments follow a pattern they may have predicted before the crisis.

When DepositAccounts surveyed consumers in April and May 2020, just 27% said they trust the government to do right by consumers through the pandemic, versus 40% who put their faith in banks. By June 2021, 71% of respondents say their financial institution has done right by consumers during the pandemic, just a bit more than the 62% who say the government responded similarly.

Pandemic inspires consumer loyalty to their financial institutions

While 58% of consumers say their loyalty to their financial institution didn’t change during the pandemic, consumers who report changes are more likely to feel increased loyalty. In fact, 30% of consumers say the pandemic made them more loyal to their primary financial institution, versus 12% who say it made them less loyal.

Banks and credit unions working hard to build trust and customer loyalty might be doing a better job with younger consumers.

Half of Gen Z respondents (ages 18 to 24) say their loyalty increased due to the pandemic, while 84% of baby boomers (ages 56 to 75) say their allegiance went unchanged.

 
 

“Baby boomers may have experience building relationships with bank officials at local brick-and-mortar banks and credit unions,” Tumin says. “Even for those Gen Zers who have opened accounts at brick-and-mortar banks, they probably don’t visit them much to build relationships.”

Perhaps these financial institutions excel in attracting and retaining customers for life. Older respondents were increasingly less likely to have changed banks during the pandemic. Only 22% of respondents overall say they switched their institution during the pandemic, but Gen Z consumers were far more likely than baby boomers to do so:

  • Gen Zers: 43%
  • Millennials (ages 25 to 40): 35%
  • Gen Xers (ages 41 to 55): 19%
  • Baby boomers: 2%

It’s not just surface loyalty, either. Baby boomers place the most trust in their financial institutions compared to other generations. When thinking about personal data protection and asset protection, roughly 86% of baby boomers trust their chosen financial institutions, compared with just 63% of Gen Zers.

 

Brick-and-mortar, APY — what makes customers more trusting?

Pens, lollipops, or lounges at branches might improve the overall banking experience for customers, but consumers seem to be more concerned about their money and how it will grow in a financial institution rather than some of the other perks. When a bank or credit union drops its checking or savings account rates, consumers may lose some of their trust in the institution.

After a year plagued by dropping interest rates, many consumers may expect some fluctuation, but 43% still say APY rate reductions harm the trust they’ve placed in their financial institution. In fact, more than 1 in 3 consumers who switched banks during the pandemic say they did so to get a better APY. (Some of them hopefully found an enticing sign-up bonus offer from their new institution.)

 

Beyond account terms, it appears human connection may be helping banks earn customer trust. Consumers who report using a traditional brick-and-mortar bank or credit union are more likely to trust their institution than those who primarily bank online.

Though most (61%) online bank users trust their institutions, an average of 74% of physical bank or credit union customers have confidence in their branches.

“Being able to talk with a bank official in person when problems arise can feel more comforting than having only phone or online options for customer service,” Tumin says.

 

Personal preference may lead consumers to one option or another, but online banks can be just as trustworthy as traditional brick-and-mortar networks.

Tumin suggests looking for a digital bank explicitly rather than a tech company that partners with a bank.

“Going through a fintech ‘middleman’ adds some risk and will generally not provide the best customer service,” he says.

 

Additionally, Tumin says consumers should research the bank’s customer service reputation and availability, as well as account disclosures or other frequently asked questions, to help them decide.

Methodology

DepositAccounts commissioned Qualtrics to field an online survey of 923 consumers with a bank account. It was conducted June 14-16, 2021. The survey was administered using a non-probability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.

We defined generations as the following ages in 2021:

  • Generation Z: 18 to 24
  • Millennial: 25 to 40
  • Generation X: 41 to 55
  • Baby boomer: 56 to 75

While the survey also included consumers from the silent generation (defined as those 76 and older), the sample size was too small to include findings related to that group in the generational breakdowns.

Comments
P_D
  |     |   Comment #1
What I find striking is how high the percentage of people who have faith in government is. 51%?

The press just did YET ANOTHER cutting exposé on Biden's ice cream preferences publishing his ice cream shop photo op like it was Regan at the Berlin Wall and fawning over every lick of the cone.

Not a single question about the record illegal penetration of the Mexican border and massive arrests of violent criminals, drug and gang warlords, human traffickers and Middle East terrorists trying to illegally enter or the abominable inhumane conditions the administration is subjecting children to, the bloodbath in Afghanistan after the US pullout, the massive spike in and record level of crime from coast to coast, the skyrocketing inflation ... etc. etc. etc.

They asked him one question about the Russian cyber attack on 200 US corporations. He seemed completely dazed and confused, stumbled and bumbled for what seemed like an awkward eternity and and then finally had to pull some notes out of his jacket and READ THE ANSWER to them!

The press ignores and the whole focus is on his ice cream. AGAIN!

Can anyone seriously have any faith in government at all with this charade going on?
GreenDream
  |     |   Comment #4
"What I find striking is how high the percentage of people who have faith in government is. 51%?"

When you become dependent on government largess, you tend to have faith in government (or at least hope that government continues to provide for you). Certain politicians would like to increase government dependency which would increase the percentage of those putting their faith in government.
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#13 - This comment has been removed for violating our comment policy.
Sherlock
  |     |   Comment #31
51% of consumers trust the federal government to keep their best interests in mind when it comes to banking/ personal finance and 62% feel the federal government did right by consumers during the pandemic when it comes to banking/personal finance.

This confidence will increase as they learn that under President Biden’s leadership, COVID cases have plunged by over 90%, the economy is growing at its highest rate in 40 years, and there is a strengthening “Buy American” provisions that encourage the federal government to purchase goods and services from U.S. companies to stop the offshoring of American jobs.
blazer9
  |     |   Comment #2
Probably the most ridiculous post I've ever seen. Completely irrelevant to the article.
About the government regarding banking and personal finance.
GreenDream
  |     |   Comment #3
Translation: I don't like what that post has to say but can't come up with anything coherent to refute it.

The post in question isn't irrelevant to the article, as much as you might wish it to be. The article talks about a survey that lists "faith in government" as being at 51%, the post is listing reasons why the poster doesn't have faith in the current government and why he's surprised that the survey has such a high percentage for those with faith in government, seems rather on target to me. YMMV.
milty
  |     |   Comment #5
True, the post starts out with discussing faith in the government but segues into just attacking Biden, who currently has a higher approval rating than Trump ever had, on issues without specific citations, as if Biden represents our entire Federal government. How about Republican Chip Roy's revelation where he wants "Eighteen more months of chaos and the inability to get stuff done. That's what we want." (That should improve the people's faith, eh?) Or how about having read  recently where Biden also agrees that “... Hitler did a lot of good things." (Hmm, can't find that.) However, our political diatribes notwithstanding, I'm actually surprised people trust banks more given how quickly, deeply, and continuously they cut their saving rates. At least we still get to vote for our representatives, hopefully neither party is trying to change that.
GreenDream
  |     |   Comment #6
Pretty ironic complaining about a post attacking Biden (who, as president, represents the current government and thus would seem fair game in a discussion about faith people currently have in government) by attacking Trump (who isn't in office anymore, so no longer represents the government so seems to be a just a wee bit off-topic for a discussion about faith people currently have in government). You act like nobody attacked Trump while he was in office so how dare anyone attack Biden now that he's in office. Clearly you were asleep (or hiding out with Biden in his basement) for the last 4+ years if you believe that.
milty
  |     |   Comment #7
The president only represents the executive branch. But interesting that you didn't dispute the Hitler reference and that you admit Trump is not in office anymore. My faith just improved.
GreenDream
  |     |   Comment #9
There's nothing to dispute in regards to Trump not being in office, that's simply an objective fact regardless of where one stands on the legitimacy of the election. That you find it interesting someone didn't dispute that says more about you than them.

As for the Hitler reference, that's hearsay from someone selling a book, you either believe he said it or not, you either believe it was taken out of context or not. Since nobody here was present for it and there's no recording of him saying it, there really nothing that can be said to persuade anyone one way or the other on the subject, so no real point in trying to "dispute" it. Believe whatever hearsay you want as no one can change a closed mind.
blazer9
  |     |   Comment #8
51% hoped the government would not let a Great Depression repeat itself due to the pandemic killing their income.
All the high rollers here are whining more about how the politicians are only letting them get 1% on their 500K + + +
GreenDream
  |     |   Comment #10
Thanks for proving the translation accurate.
kcfield
  |     |   Comment #15
Clearly there is a relatively high level of trust in financial institutions or there would have not been such a large increase in the US savings rate during the pandemic. Now, whether this actually indicates a high level of confidence in financial institutions; or simply a higher relative trust in comparison with our mattresses (which offer the same rates of return on deposits thereunder) is a matter requiring further research.
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