When it comes to building brands, the financial industry might be falling behind the pack.

According to a recent ranking by MBLM, a New York City-based marketing strategist, financial firms are below average when it comes to creating and maintaining intimate brand relationships.

“It’s one thing for financial firms to say they have a relationship focus, but it’s another thing to have the means and operation in place to deliver those relationships,” says Rina Plapler, a partner at MBLM. “On the consumer side, there’s a real frustration with the industry when it comes to the complexity of the business, the overly detailed regulations and some of the negative headlines in recent years.”

MBLM defines brand intimacy as the relationship between consumers and a brand that transcends usage, purchase and loyalty. The company believes that brand intimacy creates enhanced business performance.

“What we’ve found is that the more intimate a customer is with a brand the more they are profitable to that brand,” says Plapler. “Building intimate bonds is the strongest way that brands can defend against losing customers and ensuring as much good will as possible towards individual firms.”

So as financial firms move from viewing their business in terms of transactions to client relationships, brand intimacy may express the strength of those relationships. But financial firms face an up-hill battle, Plapler says.

“This is a category that has more at stake than a consumer beverages brand or a social media brand,” Plapler says. “Because finances are involved in every level of a consumer’s life, the expectations are higher and the frustration increases more easily.”

According to MBLM’s analysis, PayPal was the most successful in creating brand intimacy.

Plapler says that PayPal stands out as both linked with new technology, but mature enough to be both familiar and trusted.

“PayPal is a fundamentally different kind of financial services firm, because it’s so rooted in e-commerce, people have more loyalty to it,” Plapler says. “PayPal also uses digital communications and humor in its messaging. I get e-mails from PayPal quite frequently that have an almost sarcastic tone to them. Since they’re not a traditional bank, they have more permission to be distinct.”