Millennial Survey: Our Findings on Trust

Eric Hazard

CEO, Vested Ventures

Trust is the most valuable asset a company or a person can have. It isn’t something that’s just given away — it has to be earned. This is one of the central mandates of communications programs, and something communications professionals talk to one another about constantly.

Our Millennials & Money survey took a detailed look at how Millennials think and act with respect to money. Our findings uncovered two fundamental pieces of information about the level of trust younger Americans put in institutions.

  • Millennial men trust President Trump on financial matters far more than women do
  • Millennials’ distrust in banks is far more intense than their collective distrust in technology firms

Each of these data points stands out, but for different reasons.

It would be intellectually lazy to conclude from the first finding that men are simply more receptive to authoritarianism, or to use it as fodder for shallow hot takes. The truth is we can’t draw causation between male sentiment towards Trump financial matters and any other existing data. We can, however, explore correlations.

One potential correlation: Outside research suggests men are more comfortable taking financial risks. Perhaps President Trump’s demeanor or unpredictability translate to perceived risk. This connection would be based entirely on perception, since there’s little clarity around the White House’s stance on financial policy.

Another interesting third-party finding: The commercial real estate sector is still dominated by men, who may be bullish about President Trumps emphasis on job creation. Still, this is grasping at straws.

We perceive this finding as a lingering question mark that deserves more research. Why do men trust President Trump on financial matters more than women?

The second datapoint on the topic has more tangible implications for the financial sector. But first, some nuance.

The survey asked two different questions: Which institutions respondents trust the most, and which they trust the least. The institutions listed were the press, big banks, the federal government, and “big tech” companies.

Thirty-four percent of respondents trust big tech the most. But only eight percent trust it the least — meaning 92 percent trust it to some extent when compared to the others, and (crucially) that it is distrusted substantially less than the other institutions.

On the other hand, only 20 percent of respondents trust big banks the most; and 24 percent of respondents trust banks the least. Although low levels of trust in banks was not particularly widespread, high levels of trust in banks was minimal.

Respondents, in essence, trust tech more, and distrust it less, than other institutions. From a communications perspective, this reinforces the notion that financial technology is best marketed as technology first and financial services second.

This viral Tweet from 2016 stands out as an illustration of why.

The confidence that users of all age groups put in technology-facilitated peer-to-peer marketplaces such as Venmo and AirBnB is simply profound, and the secret sauce of those platforms is usability. Tech companies know this better than any other industry. Heavyweights like Apple and Google, are known for simplicity of design, for making the user experience intuitive and pretty. Amazon and Netflix take usability to the next level, predicting what users want.

Over and over, the technology sector shows that sound design and usability in product development create a powerful basis for consumer confidence, and those qualities should transcend vertical industries. While communications and public relations are typically brought into the fold late in the product development journey, our findings make the case for including these teams at the very beginning.

Image source: Shutterstock