A recent release from the National Association of Retirement Plan Participants summarizing their 2016 investor behavior study revealed that trust in financial institutions has fallen to an all-time low of just 8 percent.
Wow, that means less than one out of every 10 people trusts the industry that is supposed to help them manage their financial lives.
According to the report, an overall lack of trust in financial services leads to individuals having lower confidence when making important decisions about saving, investing and making sure their money will last a lifetime. In other words, if I distrust this whole industry, how can I believe anything they say or have any faith that the choices I’m making will be good for me? It’s no wonder why inertia on one hand and panic on the other often make it so difficult for people to stick with a good financial plan.
When the financial crisis hit in 2008, we all hoped trust would rebound with improved stock market returns, but it hasn't. Scandals are fresh in investors’ minds and the current political discourse has further demonized Wall Street. The new normal of market volatility is shocking for many people who essentially suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder from the Great Recession. As financial services professionals, we represent a world that is scary.
Also, it’s not just noise in the media that’s to blame for investor weariness. Everyday marketers have the opportunity to either reach people and build confidence, or give them more reason to fear. How can marketers help improve the trust crisis in our industry?
1. Stop using jargon and pushing the complexity of products. Try human-speak. When we use words that people don't understand, they assume we are out to trick them. In an effort to chase returns, risk protection, lower prices and other product features, we’ve created new language and a degree of complexity that befuddles even educated investors. I have a rule: if it’s too complicated for my sisters to understand, I don’t market it. Simplify.
2. Quit the pretense of ads and messages people can't relate to. Stop over-promising and providing images of perfect futures that most folks know they cannot achieve. These tactics just make people more anxious. They actually understand that life is full of trade-offs and challenges and are looking to you to help them make the best of it.
3. Don't drive fear campaigns. While we should avoid the rosy pictures, we don't need to scare people to death. In some campaigns, the underlying message is that investors are in serious trouble and their only hope is to let us take over for them. This is an outdated marketing strategy that hails from the worst corners of our industry. The real-life truth of the matter is that people can survive a less-than-perfect set of circumstances; they just need encouragement to get help.
4. Focus on here and now. I know this sounds counter intuitive when we are supposed to help people over a lifetime, but taking it one step at a time builds confidence. Try to make life better today, not just in some unimaginable timeframe. Over time, a series of good habits is exactly what a financial plan should be.