Do we bank on regulation or reputation? A meta-analysis and meta-regression of organizational trust in the financial services sector

Anne-Marie Nienaber, Marcel Hofeditz, Rosalind H. Searle

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    Purpose – Trust in financial institutions has been eroded through the collapse of mortgage-related securities, with confidence further denuded through well publicized cases of rogue traders and rate fixing cases, such as with the Lehman brothers, the Libor rate-fixing scandals, and the hypo real estate breakdown. In response to these events, governments have introduced a range of distinct policy initiatives designed to restore trust in this sector. Thus, the question arises: are these regulations and control mechanisms sufficient in isolation, or are there other elements that this sector needs to pay attention to in efforts to build and sustain customers’ trust? The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach – There is a compelling agenda for both financial organizations and academics to understand better organizational trust in this context especially the role and impact of regulatory mechanisms in its development and repair. The paper therefore examines the special facets of the financial services sector in comparison to other sectors, such as manufacturing, to consider whether trust is fundamentally different in this context than others, and thus address how far there are special challenges concerning trust and the banking industry. The paper analyses, by using a meta-analytical design, 93 studies (N=38,631), of which 20 empirically investigate organizational trust in the financial sector with a combined N of 11,224 respondents. Findings – The paper shows that the banking sector is heavily affected by two distinct forces: first, customers’ perception of an organization's level of compliance and conformity with laws and regulations is a necessity for banks’ sociopolitical legitimization, and second it is also related to how non-compliance is dealt with. Importantly, this meta-analysis indicates that regulation is just one of a suite of devices that organizations need to deploy in their efforts to restore trust. The paper identified two further elements of significance: customers require direct evidence, derived either from their own or others’ satisfaction with the goods or services provided, and customers do take note of the external endorsement of the firm, especially in Asia, where customers place huge emphasis on the firm's reputation. Research limitations/implications – First, meta-analysis is inherently reliant on the earlier studies and therefore retains their weaknesses. Some of the relationships included self-report variables collected at the same point in time and therefore may be inflated by common method bias. Second, due to the focus and because of the limited number of studies in this sector, and a paucity of attention on some key topics, such as perceptions of regulation, second-order sampling error may also be a limitation. Third, some relationships were not investigated frequently enough in studies to enable us to include them in the review, such as cooperation, opportunistic behaviour or quality. Finally, despite calls for trust scholars to include propensity to trust measures within their studies, many of these studies do not include this measure and therefore it is more difficult to identify and control individual difference factors. Practical implications – The results show the merit of multi-strand trust development strategies. There is a striking paucity of financial institutions, which have examined how far their trust deficit may be related to their internal culture, and whether recent corporate corruption could be the product of bonuses and the internal short-term individualized reward systems. The analysis reveals that although external regulations and controls are an effective and powerful devise for organizational trust, over the last two periods of significant crisis, their impact appears to be warning; Yet reassuring customers of their expectations of the other party's future behaviour is central to trust. Alternative remedies need to be considered, such as the establishment of a more effective regulator, or board of governors who oversee and assure compliance. Monitoring and surveillance offer a further external means of reducing the possibility of future misbehaviours. However, as the analysis indicates, other strands are required to build trust, including greater attention by firms on customers’ direct experiences, which in turn would enhance the third part endorsement of their competence and goodwill intentions of organizations. Social implications – Significantly, the results indicate the potentially partial erosion of credence factors, and thus confidence, in this sector over the last 20 years, during what has been a period of repeated exposure to trust breaches. The paper shows that single strand solutions, such as improvements to customer communication, are no longer sufficient, nor, more importantly, do they have the same impact. Instead, the paper shows the necessity to utilize more effectively and target attention towards three distinct antecedents: external regulations and their enforcement; third party and expert endorsements, and therefore external reputations; and customer satisfaction in terms of the effective delivery of customer expectations. Originality/value – Organizational trust has been shown as critical in positively affecting and repairing broken relationships through uncertainty reduction and confidence enhancement. In the past, different meta-analyses of trust have been undertaken, but this, to the authors knowledge, is the first meta-analytic study measuring trust on an organizational level in the context of the financial services sector and its regulatory environment. This meta-analysis indicates that regulation is just one of a suite of devices that organizations need to deploy in their efforts to restore trust. The paper identified two further elements: customers require direct evidence, and do take note of the external endorsement of the firm.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)367 - 407
    JournalInternational Journal of Bank Marketing
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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