SunTrust Bank's Rilla Delorier believes banks could improve customers' financial well-being – and by extension their own reputations and profit margins – if they would just cooperate with one another.

Kicking off the inaugural BankThink Live Sessions at American Banker's Retail Banking 2014 conference, Delorier suggested that financial firms' individual efforts to improve consumers' finances are largely failing because customers "are not trusting us." 

Delorier, SunTrust's chief marketing and client experience officer, suggested regaining the trust banks lost in the wake of the financial crisis would be a lot easier if they pooled the financial and human resources each had set aside to promote financial literacy. 

"Shoulder to shoulder, I bet if we looked at all the stuff we're doing across institutions, we'd find incredible redundancy," she said. "We're all creating content. I bet it's pretty darn similar. What if we created it once and we spent our energy on getting it out there and changing behavior?"

Delorier cited  "It Can Wait", an anti-texting-while-driving campaign launched by AT&T in 2010 and ultimately endorsed by Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile, as an example of an industry banding together to foster change. She also name-checked Toms Shoes, which donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair purchased, and Dove, which has launched marketing campaigns designed to build self-esteem among women, as companies that have done a good job of tying purpose to profits.

"What we do is noble work," Delorier said. "What we do matters, so I think it's time we get reconnected to our purpose of why we do what we do."

She closed her talk by inviting bankers to join a dialogue around financial wellness initiatives that the nonprofit organization BAI was willing to organize in April. Those interested in joining the discussion can email info@bai.org.

"We have to do this to save our industry," Delorier said. "If you look at the market share we're losing to nonbanks because people can't afford to have a $100 balance in their checking account, if you look at the loans we're writing off, the mortgages we're foreclosing, we have got to help Americans get stronger and we can do that together."

Jeanine Skowronski is the deputy editor of BankThink. You can contact her at Jeanine.skowronski@sourcemedia.com or follow her at Twitter @JeanineSko.