My spouse and I are considering refinancing our home to see if we can lower our monthly payment before interest rates rise. I made the mistake of filling out an online form which sent my information to what seems like every financial institution in the country.

I spent the next two weeks dodging and sometimes blocking their phone calls, but one snuck through. The person who called was pleasant and knowledgeable, but it was clear his goal was to sell, not help.

Sure, he could lower my payment, but he wasn’t saving me a dime by taking the less than 20 years I owe on my mortgage, adding my car payment (at a rate much higher than my current auto loan) and spreading it out over 30 years. In fact, he was costing me money. I couldn’t help but wonder how many other consumers he had “helped.”

The man was friendly enough, but he wasn’t helpful and my consumer experience was less than stellar.


This is why consumers don’t trust financial institutions.


According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, financial services is the least trusted industry among global consumers, as it has been for many years. More people trust auto workers than they do your credit union or bank.

The advice the man gave me and the “deal” he offered me were bad. Unfortunately, many consumers – particularly those young and inexperienced – don’t always understand the idea of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Or, in this case, robbing your future self to pay your current self. They see the lower payment and assume they’re getting a good deal.

A study from George Washington University showed that only a quarter of millennials have basic financial understanding, and only eight percent have what researchers considered a high financial understanding. This lack of financial literacy leads to ill-informed decisions, which lead too poor return, which ultimately leads to distrust and dissatisfaction in financial institutions altogether.

If you really want consumers to trust your credit union or bank, earn their trust with these guidelines.

Educate them. Don’t just sell products and services. Help them understand how your products will benefit them or solve a problem for them. Help them understand why some options are better than others based on where they are financially.

Be honest. Don’t solve a problem by causing another one (i.e. rolling a car loan into a home loan at a much higher interest rate). When I told the guy on the phone his suggestion to pay a higher rate on my auto loan didn’t make sense, he said he agreed but was just trying to help lower my monthly mortgage payment. How about a way that won’t cost me thousands of dollars?

Care. Don’t offer someone a product or service they don’t need. If you can’t approve someone for a loan, don’t just send them away. Show compassion. Explain why. Show them how they can improve their credit score over time. Treat them like people, not just numbers. That is what they want.

Consumers today crave authenticity. If you really want your credit union or bank’s brand to stand out as trustworthy, give consumers the sound financial advice they really want and show them you care. It’s that simple.