Trust is at a record low. Large-scale data breaches are commonplace. Distrust lies at the heart of many high- profile contemporary global issues such as climate change, globalisation and political disruption. The term “fake news” is everywhere.

In Australia, trust is a central theme in evidence before the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (the Royal Commission). Questions surrounding consumer trust were also raised in the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and the Financial Markets Authority’s report on the conduct and culture of New Zealand life insurers.

Who can we trust? Can we trust anyone?

In the midst of a technological explosion, traditional “old fashioned” values appear to be more important than ever. Our research emphasises the importance of being honest and ethical, and the need to communicate this commitment in order to gain trust.

As technology plays an increasingly important role in the way we deliver services, businesses face new challenges
in maintaining trusting relationships. Some say that the increased use of technology in business is damaging trust. However our research suggests that it is not the shift towards increased use of technology that is damaging trust. Instead, it is the accompanying move away from face-to-face contact.

This paper draws on data from two studies. The first reports on a survey conducted with respondents from Australia and New Zealand to generate new knowledge in relation to trust in institutions and professions. Respondents were asked how much they trusted certain groups and what factors increased or decreased this trust. They were also asked about the impact on trust of brand loyalty and technology across a range of institutions and professions. The survey had 1,000 respondents from Australia and 500 from New Zealand.

This paper also incorporates findings from a survey by Edelman Intelligence, an independent market research firm, in conjunction with Chartered Accountants Worldwide.

Key points:

  • Trust is critical in any relationship. High levels of trust have significant benefits for businesses and professionals.
  • As people’s trust in many institutions declines, being honest and ethical isn’t enough – you need to communicate this commitment too.
  • New technology combined with traditional values such as face-to-face contact can help improve trust.
  • Association with a brand and purpose beyond profit are proven ways to retain and build trust.
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