The financial and professional services sectors have been dramatically altered by the economic crisis. Since the crash, there has been a wider awareness of perceived economic injustices, and protests such as the Occupy movement have been increasingly commonplace. Indeed, there have been protests in all sorts of places, from the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral to Madrid’s famous plazas.
Some argue that social media has been the driving force of these protests, since it allows for better communication and organisation of such protests. As such, financial institutions need to have a strong presence on social platforms in order to get their message across and try to ease the tensions in the space which create the urge to protest. Crisis communications are now more important than ever in mitigating the public outcry. The financial industry needs to have practical and methodical solutions in order to restore positive public opinion.
Another impact of the crisis has been an ever brighter spotlight on the industry. As a result of greater media attention and public outcry, governments are under great pressure to increase regulations on the financial sector. As a result, the industry will have to be careful what it says. It is important not to encourage prohibitive legislation, but all the while, companies must be willing to engage in more transparent reporting procedures. This increased transparency should be seen as an opportunity for the sector to begin rebuilding its tarnished reputation.
The last reputational challenge faced by the sector concerns the difficulty financial firms have had in communicating the value that they offer society. The industry needs to work to tell its positive stories, such as Goldman Sachs being one of the best companies to work for in America. The industry could also work on more CSR initiatives, in order to try and showcase the benefits its prosperity brings to society, and not just the top 1%. A great example is the Aviva Street Dance for Change campaign as it showed that Aviva Insurance cared about helping vulnerable children but also it publicly demonstrated Aviva’s work in the community.
The financial crisis has transformed the financial and professional services sectors. There are many challenges but also many opportunities to broadcast the importance and good of the industries. Social media has been a blessing and threat to the sectors and they need to utilise it to their advantage. Also, better reporting will allow for better business practices and services it can offer to its clients. Moreover, CSR campaigns are useful vehicles to demonstrate the sectors commitment to the community and in the process rebuild its reputation. Ultimately it is up to the financial and professional services sectors on the best course on how to grow and develop in the future.