Taken in or taken on trust
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.
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.