In a survey of the websites of financial services firms—fund companies not among them—public relations firm Weber Shandwick found that two-thirds, 66%, were not addressing the financial crisis. Only 15% actively sought to alleviate customers’ fears.

The review, conducted between October and February, was of 55 financial institutions that included: securities firms, commercial banks, financial data service firms, diversified financials, private equity and investment firms, and sovereign wealth funds.

“It is not enough for leading financial services companies to communicate only in good times,” said Barb Iverson, president of the financial services practice at Weber Shandwick. “[We] recommend to financial services companies that they use their low-cost/high-impact home pages to communicate more directly and personally with their stakeholders by acknowledging and addressing customer and investor financial concerns.”

Among those that did address the financial crisis, the topic covered most often was general economy updates and statistics, up to 33% in February, from 19% in October; company strength and longevity, 25% in February, up from 19%; and customer reassurances about their personal financial security, at 12% in February, down from 15% in October.

Broken out by region, European financial services firms were more inclined to address the crisis (38%) than U.S. firms (30%).

All securities firms were addressing the crisis by the end of February, Weber Shandwick found, and commercial banks were the most averse to addressing the problem.

Weber Shandwick recommends that financial services firms have their CEO or other top executives address the crisis with personal messages. It would also be helpful to customers to have a glossary of terms frequently mentioned in the media about the crisis, such as TARP or APS. Customers also want to know how the stimulus package could impact their holdings and are seeking products and companies that are safe and secure.

In addition, financial services firms should consider setting up customer discussion forums, Weber Shandwick recommends.

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