Most marketing executives at Wall Street firms believe that new regulations governing the financial services industry will go a long way toward helping banks, brokerage houses and investment banks improve their reputations.

According to a study released Monday, 96% of marketing and public relations officials at financial companies believe that their firms' reputations remain damaged by the financial crisis, and 57% gave the industry average, below average or failing grades in the area of public relations.

Nearly three-fourths of those surveyed, however, are confident that new laws such as the Dodd-Frank Act will help their firms regain clients' trust.

The survey was conducted jointly by Makovsky and Company, a New York communications firm, and Echo Research, a London-based research company. It polled

150 communications executives at banks, brokerage houses, asset-management firms, insurance companies, research and financial technology firms over a one-week period in late February and early March.

It is important to note that the survey excluded chief executives, many of whom have been vocal in their opposition to the Dodd-Frank Act. Indeed, many are hoping that a Republican will unseat President Obama and repeal at least some of provisions of the law.

Scott Tangney, the head of Makovsky's financial services practice, said in an interview that his firm opted to poll marketing executives because they are at the front lines in the financial services industry's ongoing effort to improve its image. With their reputations at risk, more and more companies are placing greater importance on marketing and communications functions, Tangney said Monday.

"There has been a shift in priority from recovering and stabilizing to focusing on customer satisfaction and improving public perception," Tangney said.

Tangney acknowledged that a survey of CEOs may have yielded different results. He added, however, that it is up to CEOs, not chief marketing officers, to take the lead in rebuilding their firms' reputations.

"They need to be out their proving that they are putting customers first," Tangney said. "It's the CEOs who are going to play a key role in that because they are more believable."

Among the survey's other results, more than half the respondents said that their firms lost clients as a result of Occupy Wall Street movement and 71% expect the movement to have an impact beyond the next presidential election.

Also, commercial banks appear to have a better reputation among financial firms than their nonbank counterparts. Thirty-six percent of respondents ranked Wells Fargo (WFC) as the firm with the best reputation, followed by Bank of America (BAC) at 35% and Citigroup (C) at 27%.

Jeff Horwitz writes for American Banker.


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