Taken in or taken on trust

Central Leader - - NEWS -

The re­cent Reader’s Di­gest poll show­ing New Zealand’s most trusted brands, peo­ple and pro­fes­sions is an an­nual flag­el­la­tion fest for the na­tion’s money men and women.

Its re­lease marks the mo­ment for bankers, in­sur­ers and ad­vis­ers to sigh as they once more find them­selves ranked along­side the likes of sex work­ers and (hor­ror) jour­nal­ists when it comes to whether they’re trusted by the pub­lic.

I, for one, feel that this is en­tirely un­fair.

I can’t see why sex work­ers are be­ing so ma­ligned.

Given sex work­ers of­fer a fairly straight­for­ward ser­vice and would rely on re­peat busi­ness as much as any other en­ter­prise, I strug­gle to see why they should be brack­eted in with in­sur­ance sales­peo­ple.

But hang on a mo­ment: In­sur­ance sales­peo­ple? Don’t they mean ad­vis­ers?

The Read­ers’ Di­gest picked rather a loaded way of re­fer­ring to an in­dus­try there.

And there’s the rub. This poll isn’t quite what it pur­ports to be. It is an in­vi­ta­tion to hate.

Take the

poor, ma­ligned real es­tate agent ranked a piti­ful 35th out of the 40 choices of­fered.

I trust them to sell my house for a large amount of money.

In fact, I’d trust them to work harder at that than I would a po­lice­man (ranked 10th most trusted pro­fes­sion) to make much ef­fort to catch a bur­glar who broke into my house.

But we are not asked to rate them on do­ing the things we pay them to do but on some gen­eral im­pres­sion of so­cial good­ness.

Sim­i­larly, I would trust bankers (ranked at a piti­ful 26th) when seek­ing a place to park some term de­posit money more than I would our stretched armed forces (ranked 9th), who I re­ally only need to trust not to con­duct a coup d’etat or to de­fend the na­tion against in­va­sion.

I im­plic­itly trust them not to do the first but I’m not sure how they’d get on on the sec­ond.

Ac­coun­tants (25th), lawyers (28th), fi­nan­cial plan­ners (31st) and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers (33rd) are among the other lowly ranked peo­ple whose per­for­mance could im­pact on your fi­nan­cial well­be­ing.

But are we re­ally ex­pected to be­lieve that peo­ple don’t trust their ac­coun­tants? Or that when we go to lawyers we think they are go­ing to let us down.

No, this sur­vey is de­signed to elicit cer­tain re­sults which it does well if rather point­lessly.

Reg­u­lar read­ers will know I am not an apol­o­gist for the fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try.

I know bad things get done to good peo­ple by those they trust their money with. But ask­ing peo­ple to de­cide whether lawyers are less trust­wor­thy than den­tists is silly.

It is just as stupid ask­ing whether peo­ple trust Whit­taker’s (the coun­try’s most trusted brand and pur­vey­ors of un­rea­son­ably huge slabs of mostly non-Fair Trade choco­late to the sec­ond fat­test na­tion on earth) more than the man­u­fac­turer of Panadol (works if I have a headache).

But on an­other front, I cel­e­brate what I con­sider the coun­try’s daftest poll.

When we buy a house, take out in­sur­ance, de­posit money, buy shares, or en­ter into fi­nan­cial ar­range­ments we are plac­ing sig­nif­i­cant faith in a per­son or com­pany.

Ki­wis have a his­tory of hav­ing too much trust with our money and as­sets, too lit­tle re­search on what we do with them and too much chas­ing the high­est re­turn de­spite the risk.

That’s the point then of this poll – to re­mind us to think twice.

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