Three ways finance brands can build trust

Incumbent and disruptor finance brands are fighting for customers. But both groups are limited by a lack of trust. What are the key messages they need to communicate to build customer faith?


Incumbent finance brands have the advantage of being known and recognised as a competent and safe banking option. However, most customers don’t think banks, even established ones, will treat them fairly.

This is where disruptors like Nutmeg or MoneyOnToast have an advantage. These new brands are extremely good at putting customers first and being transparent about their business practices.

However it takes time for consumers to trust new players in the market. For example, when Forrester asked customers who they trust as a digital wallet provider, incumbent banks came first and Google last.

Incumbents gained this trust through complying with stringent regulations and investing in advertising and brand awareness. So is it possible that neither fintech companies nor the banks will win?

How to create a finance brand that people trust

I think that there are three levels of reassurance that customers seek when considering a new finance brand:

  1. Stability: What’s their market expertise? Are they going to fail?
  2. Competence: Will they protect my data? Can I trust them?
  3. Intention: Are they going to take advantage of me?

By creating content that directly addresses these concerns, finance brands can build trust.


When it comes to finance, customers need reassurance about what’s going to happen to their money. Finance brands can create content to help customers build confidence that they are a stable and trustworthy brand.

Providing answers to questions like these can help:

  • What will happen if the business fails?
  • Who’s on the board?
  • Who are you regulated by?
  • Have you raised finance from investors? (Showing that someone else trusts you can reassure customers.)

Here’s an example from Nutmeg. It provides detailed profiles for its board members, showing customers that experts in the field trust them:




Disruptor brands need to work harder to prove their competence than more established ones. For example, a freemium approach might make customers suspicious about the viability of the business model. There might also be concerns about data privacy and security.

To counteract this:

  • Communicate clearly how your business model works, for example a “How we make money” section can help reassure customers on how you achieve lower operating costs.
  • Address data protection issues.
  • Show how you are regulated.

For example, Transferwise started a petition to stop hidden fees. By doing this, it is taking a position, fighting for customers and bringing its brand to life.




It’s key to bring good intentions to life and show empathy for customers. For finance brands, it’s important to be as distant as possible from associations with financial scandals and greedy bankers. They need to show that they are a part of a new generation, with a common purpose that forms the basis of their relationship with customers. Clear intentions and ambitions are essential to winning customer trust.

This might look like:

  • Publicly declaring the purpose of your business.
  • Showing that people trust you.
  • Being transparent about what are people saying about you in the news or how they rate your services.

To support potential customers in their evaluation process, the insurance company Aviva publishes years’ worth of customer reviews on its website:



Case study: Apple Pay

I looked at the example of Apple Pay to see how it measures up on these three communications goals:

  • Stability: Stability is a struggle for Apple – it doesn’t benefit from the perception of being a long-lasting financial institution.
  • Intention: With years in the tech business, Apple is already associated with convenience, simplicity and innovation.
  • Competence: As a digital company, Apple isn’t necessarily perceived as a good finance provider. However, because incumbents advertise Apple Pay, it gives the service the credibility it needs.

The future of banking will be built on trust

For the new entrants and other fintech companies, the battle has already started. It is critical that from the outset, finance brands are able to deliver on the three facets of trust: stability, intention and competence. Every communication effort made against those messages will benefit the business in the long-run.

Trust takes time to build. For the moment, customers’ trust will remain with incumbents as they have been investing for years.

However with new generations of customers and market disruption, the incumbents won’t be safe for long. The same components of building trust must also apply to them, or they are at risk of becoming “dumb pipes”. As we’ve seen with Apple Pay, the transformation of finance is starting to happen and the lines are being blurred by players with a foot in both worlds.

If you’d like to read more about our approach to branding for the digital age, download our free ebook Resilient Brands.