The Real Cost of Breaching Trust

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Let’s talk about the real cost of distrust we are experiencing in corporate Australia today.

The AMP announcement yesterday of a 97 per cent fall in annual profits from the previous year, sends a loud and clear message to corporate Australia’s leadership: Breaching customer trust costs and costs big time.

There’s more at stake here however than the whopping 97 percent loss in profits.

While it is obvious shareholders have taken a big hit in the falling share price of AMP as an arguably direct result of the findings of the Royal Commission, my thoughts go out to the thousands of well-intentioned, competent, and customer focused employees and their families.

What about the employees?

What impact must all of this negativity and distrust be having on the self-trust and self-respect of the many individuals turning up five days a week to work for a company whose brand has taken a battering?

You might remember a commercial on TV where friends were gathered for a BBQ in a suburban back yard, when in casual conversation one person asked another “And what do you do for work?” The respondent answered with “I work for a bank”.

With that, all other conversations stopped, and everyone stared at the respondent in silence.

He nervously looked around at everyone, and said “Oh… it’s ok, I work for St. George”, and with that, everyone immediately became more comfortable and welcoming, supposedly because St George Bank wasn’t ‘like’ all the other big banks. Of course, St George Bank is owned by Westpac.

My point being, the commercial was a representation of how some employees might be perceived and judged by their friends and families for working for a financial institution… and following the Royal Commission, arguably, perceived and judged for working for any financial institution.

We need empathy not apathy

The thing is, if you’re an employee of one of these major financial institutions, my comment to you (for what it’s worth) is remember all the good you’re doing and just keep turning up and being the best version of yourself you can be every day, and keep focused on making life better for your customers.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for a moment dismissing the unethical, immoral, incompetent and in some cases potentially illegal actions of some leaders and some employees of these financial institutions.

However, amidst all the wrongdoing and distrust, we need to balance things out with all the amazingly positive contributions these financial institutions, their leaders and employees have made in the past and will continue to do so into the future.

What I worry about though is with all the negative noise (again justifiable negative noise), I can’t help but think what it must be like to not be proud of letting people know who you work for? What must it be like to be working for a company that is distrusted, even though you’ve personally done nothing wrong and have been to the best of your knowledge, doing a bloody good job for your customers?

Can you imagine what that must do to a person’s sense of engagement at work, their sense of pride, their sense of competence, their sense of self-worth?

Imagine what that must also do to the everyday relationships these employees have in their personal lives? How must it be impacting their family life?

While many of the financial institutions are beginning to focus on how they can rebuild trust with their customers, community and shareholders, it’s of equal importance, if not even more important, to rebuild trust with their employees.

Almost all, if not all financial institutions would have something in their mission, vision, purpose and value statements to acknowledge how important their customers are and how important their staff are.

The reality is… actions speak louder than words.

What’s remaining to be seen, is whether the new or rejuvenated leadership within these financial institutions (and the broader corporate Australian companies), genuinely acknowledge their mistakes, take accountability, and transparently communicate and demonstrate behaviour and actions that prove their intentions to make life better for customers.

Over time, the intentions, promises, actions and results of these organisations will either promote them as trustworthy or expose them (again) as not being worthy of our trust.

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