Communications and marketing executives at 150 US-based financial firms have admitted that the responsibility for poor reputation lies with them, according to the 2012 Makovsky Wall Street Reputation Study.

96% of the group said that they invite negative public perception by their actions or inactions, while negative public perception topped the list of challenges these firms must overcome in the next year.

The study also revealed that three in four (74%) believe that increased regulation of the financial services industry will help improve reputation and trust with customers faster. 

Executive VP and head of the financial services practice at Makovsky Scott Tangney said that there has been a shift in priority, and that companies now seem to be focusing on customer satisfaction, employee communications and improving public perception.

Whereas issues such as capital and liquidity challenges, weak financial performance, and the lingering impact of the subprime mortgage crisis have been the most important factors in tarnishing the industry’s image, the study found, the respondents are now looking to management and product/service quality as well as their company’s commitment to rebuilding reputation as most critical.”

In fact, the study revealed that 73% said their marketing and communications departments grew in importance over the past year.

More than half of financial services marketing or communications executives said that their company’s social media efforts have had a neutral impact on managing their reputation; slightly more than 40% felt it had a positive impact on their company.   

Last month eModeration’s Tamara Littleton wrote a piece on social media for the financial industry, reiterating that people do want to talk to their banks – specifically younger customers.

Recent research by Sitel shows that 15% of 16-24 year-olds choose to interact with customer service on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and forums.

The changing expectations of young consumers probably isn’t high on the priority list of those running marcomms for Wall Street’s finest, but comScore reports that ‘Millennials’ (those born between 1981 and 2000) now control $170bn in the US alone.

Whether they like it or not, using social media as a way to interact with this group of consumers will become increasingly important, particularly when improving reputation faster is a consideration.