The public's perception of the banking industry soured this year, ending a five-year streak of improvement
But perceptions of other industries — like airlines and telecommunications — fared much worse. So looking at how banking compares, it actually moved ahead of a few industries that had outshined it in the past.
There is a lot of insight to gain from analyzing the results of the annual American Banker/Reputation Institute Survey of Bank Reputations. Each spring, the institute surveys more than 10,000 U.S. adults to gauge their impressions of large and regional banks, which allows for a comparison with both other banks and other industries. All those who offer opinions about a particular bank — 40 banks were assessed this year — are first asked questions meant to ensure they are familiar with that bank.
Two years ago, the banking industry had the worst reputation among the 11 industries the Reputation Institute tracked at the time. Banking was even below the broader financial services industry back then. In this year's survey, banking ranked 10th out of 16 industries (see chart above), even though its overall reputation score of 66.5 out of 100 is lower than it was two years ago.
Scores between 60 and 69.9 are considered to be just "average." Scores of 70 to 79.9 reflect a "strong" reputation, and 80 or above is "excellent." At the opposite end of the spectrum, a score between 40 and 59.9 is "weak," while anything below 40 is "poor."
One reason the banking industry's score dropped by three points from last year's survey is that many consumers — both customers and noncustomers — don't believe that banks are acting in their best interests.
Only two banks rated in both the 2017 and 2018 surveys saw their customer scores improve meaningfully this year — PNC Bank and KeyBank. Ten others saw negligible improvements or no change at all. The rest declined, with some banks plunging nearly 10 points.
Among noncustomers, scores went up enough to be meaningful for again only two banks, in this case Capital One and Bank of America.
Though Bank of America remains next to last in that ranking, it's notable that any banks managed to get a lift in a year when corporate reputations in general, across many industries, took a beating.
Four other banks also showed improvement with noncustomers, but not enough to be considered statistically significant. And like Bank of America, three of those four — SunTrust Banks, HSBC and Wells Fargo — still had "weak" reputations, with scores below 60.
What follows are key takeaways from this year's survey — the highs, the lows, and the trends that drove the results.