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Banks face all-time low consumer confidence

Thursday, July 05, 2012

It seems fewer people are happy with their banks and the banking system as a whole. A new survey points that out. Much of it has to do with the recent financial crisis and new bank fees. We have a closer look at the study and talked with experts about what it all means.

If you believe the numbers, perceptions of US banks is at an all-time low. But is it really that people don't trust banks? Or is it that banks have become a catch all for anything related to finance and Wall Street?

Omnibank is what you'd call a community bank.

"We do a little bit of everything. But at the same time, you have all of the convenience and safety that you have with any size bank," Omnibank President and CEO Julie Cripe said.

Cripe has worked there 34 years. She is its president and CEO, and she's aware of the public's perception of her industry.

"Everything that deals with money or some financial instrument is a bank," Cripe said.

She knows the newest Gallup Poll found bankers at an all-time low when they asked if Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in banks. Twenty-two years ago, that number was at 60 percent. It fell and then rose over the next 20 years, but this year reached an all-time low.

"When you ask a focus group what do you thinking about banks? It's very negative. But when you say what do you think about your bank, they go oh my bank is great," she said.

"Well they hold my money, so as long as I'm earning interest, I'm good," one customer told us.

"I have a negative opinion on banks. So I think the big banks shouldn't have been bailed out," another told us.

"I believe banks are great," another customer said.

"Both the Great Depression and the great recession were financial recessions caused by issues in the banking system," said Jill Foote with Rice University.

Foote is a senior lecturer on finance at Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business. She says the perception problems is in part because larger banks got too big and too complicated, putting short term gain ahead of long term stability.

"I think they really lost sight of their core business, which is supporting both shareholders who own their stock, as well as depositers," Foote said.

She thinks more regulation may help and a change that makes larger institutions smaller in focus and in practice is needed.

"It's going to be a while before I think we see any uptick in the public's perception in what's going on with the banks," Foot said.

In the meantime, Cripe says she'll keep pushing the message that not all things money equals banking.

"Be nice to your banker. Let's declare it hug a banker day," she said.

By the way the Gallup Poll also referenced other institutions with low public confidence. They include television news, organized labor, and big business at 21 percent, health maintenance organizations at 19 percent and at just 13 percent --Congress.

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