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PR pulse: Wells Fargo scandal causes bank distrust to skyrocket

by | Sep 29, 2017 | Public Relations

In the wake of revelations about massive Wells Fargo scandals involving the opening of fake accounts and charging of illegal fees, new research from socially-conscious online banking and investing firm Aspiration finds that Americans trust big banks even less than they trust scandal-ridden celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Tiger Woods.

When choosing from big banks, Congress, used car salesmen, Charlie Sheen, and Tiger Woods, 14 percent of Americans said they trust big banks the least. Americans showed more faith in Charlie Sheen with 13 percent selecting him as the least trustworthy and Tiger Woods, who was chosen by 9 percent of respondents. Big banks still beat out Congress and used car salesmen.

The lack of trust starts with a major culprit: Wells Fargo is now the least trusted bank in America, by far. About 44 percent of Americans say they trust Wells Fargo the least, compared to other major financial institutions such as Bank of America, Chase, Citi, and Capital One. More than three in four Wells Fargo customers (76 percent) have heard about the recent Wells Fargo scandals, and two-thirds of Wells Fargo customers (65 percent) now trust their bank less. More than half of Wells Fargo customers (51 percent) would be willing to switch to another bank, if it was more trustworthy.

The impact of the Wells Fargo scandals stretches beyond just that one bank

Those scandals have exacerbated the crisis of confidence in America’s largest financial institutions overall. Of the two-thirds of Americans (66 percent) who are familiar with what has happened at Wells Fargo, 36 percent trust their own bank less—even if they are not Wells Fargo customers themselves.

Big banks’ trust gap is being driven by Americans under 35 years of age. These younger Americans are 10 percent more likely to have less trust in their own bank as a result of the Wells Fargo revelations than Americans over the age of 65 (38 percent vs. 28 percent).

Why does this matter?

Because not only are young people under 35 the banking customers of the future, but they are currently up for grabs. Although most Americans over 65 pick their bank based on the branch closest to them, only 37 percent of these younger Americans pick based on geography proximity. Instead, empowered by their mobile phones, they pick their bank based on completely different criteria, and they are ready to make a move. Fifty nine percent of 18-to-34 year olds would be willing to switch to a new bank if it were more trustworthy than their current one compared to only 18 percent of those 65 and over.

The online survey of 1,100 Americans was conducted by Aspiration through AYTM polling services on September 15, 2017 and has a 95percent confidence interval margin of error of +/- 3 percent. Additional poll data from a survey of 942 respondents conducted by Aspiration through Google Consumer Surveys from September 15 to 17, 2017, with a 95 percent confidence interval margin of error of -1.9 percent to +2.1 percent.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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