Consumers' evaluation of banks' reputation has fallen four points since February, to 77 points on the biannual BAI/Finacle Index of Bank Sentiment. The index was benchmarked at 100 points in August 2009.

"The positive is that the decline is slowing," said Dan Hough, director of research at BAI in Chicago.

"That could be an indication that consumer sentiment is stabilizing or even that there might be an uptick," though he said he would not know for sure until a research firm queries another 2,500 investors next month.

The bank customers who took a rosier view of their financial institutions tended to focus on a couple of criteria. Innovation, for one, got high marks from many consumers.

About 93% of respondents said that their bank is innovative, based on the online access it offers, indicating that they respect their own institutions, just not the industry at large.

To Ajay Nagarkatte, a managing director at BAI, consumers' loyalty to their own banks but distrust of others should send a clear message to advisers that now is the time to look within their institutions for leads.

"Advisers should take advantage of that and look within their own customer bases, not outside, for new business," he urged.

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