How Banking is Building Trust Through Their COVID-19 Response

Serving customers disrupted by the pandemic is providing banks and credit unions an opportunity to validate the trust we place in our financial institutions in both good times and bad

The resilience displayed by community banks and credit unions during the COVID-19 challenge has been a sight to behold. They’re calling their customers to check on them. They’re providing a bridge to the money they need through PPP lending. They’re creating new products and services to support them in their time of greatest need. They’re giving back to their communities in extraordinary ways. They’re living their values out loud—demonstrating them every day in quite tangible, actionable ways.

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.

– Stephen Covey, Author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

Trust is What Matters

Through their responsive and resilient actions, banking is providing citizens and communities with something we all need right now – some calm in the eye of the storm. Banking’s reaction to the challenge speaks to a larger purpose, demonstrating why they’re worthy of being called an essential pillar of our society. In their recent webinar for Sheshunoff Consulting’s Bankers Web, Adrenaline’s Sean Keathley and Gina Bleedorn talk about how important trust is to revitalize the image of banking that has been battered and bruised especially during the last economic downturn.

“Trust is everything,” according to Sean Keathley, Adrenaline’s President, and CEO. “Watching community banks and credit unions take these actions is truly inspirational to me because they’re not doing it with some ulterior motive of gaining consumer trust then capitalizing on it. They’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.” In Accenture’s Purpose-Driven Banking Report, the widely respected international consulting firm says that trust-based opportunities in the short-term can lead to deeper relationships built on a foundation that will future-proof banking’s long-term prospects.

According to Gina Bleedorn, Adrenaline’s Chief Experience Officer, “In banking especially today, you have one objective: Build trust. The key to banking’s future relies on putting trust back in banking.” Accenture’s report finds that belief in banking has been the decline over decades. But now trust has reached a new primacy. Gina says, “Community banking institutions always had trust going for them. Now, refocusing on trust as a differentiator is what will help them meet this moment and be better for it. How they demonstrate trust as a central brand value and proof in action sets the stage for their future success.”

Roadmap to Renewal

In the recent Post-COVID Branch Readiness: A Roadmap to Reopening, Adrenaline’s experts have outlined ways to foster trust through your brand and your branches in a short-, medium- and long-term phased approach. From a brand standpoint, the immediate focus for banks should be on communications; and on the branch side, safety and training are foundational along with the infusion communications into the branch environment. From across the service spectrum, brands reacting to COVID immediately paused communications then quickly pivoted to new messaging that focuses on empathy and trust.

Specifically for banks, messaging has moved from cross-selling opportunities and banking products messages of empathy and support, centering around reassuring both customers and community members that banking institutions are here for them and here to stay. With a new focus on operational safety and informational guidance, brand communications at this moment should be taking a hard shift away from sales and service, with only the exception being how the bank can help with immediate financial assistance like emergency loan products, PPP guidance and payment deferral programs.

Lead with Empathy

The underlying strategic approach here is empathy-led and based on giving people the information they need at the moment they need it with an appreciation of them as a human. Viewing the world from this lens allows you to recognize what it is they want from their bank. Gina says, “At this moment, people probably don’t want to hear about your CD rates. This isn’t a moment for any types of competitive claims or selling of products. You have an opportunity to be more in the eyes of your customers.” Regarding messaging, reframing it to be reflective of the moment is what consumers want most.

Being human also means understanding your relationship to people’s need states. Prior to today, there were already challenges brewing for community institutions in how to compete with big banks. These questions were mostly focused on scaling digital capacity to minimize the time consumers spend on banking. But now that the way consumers value time is shifting, the importance of trust in the equation has only increased—and the good news is that community banks and credit unions have been building trust all along.  In our next installment on trust in banking, we will focus on additional ways to leverage your brands and branches to win the Trust vs. Time divide.

For more information on bank branch reopening in the post-COVID landscape, download our Roadmap to Reopening. If you are a financial institution needing advice and expertise now, you can contact Adrenaline’s financial services experts at or call (678) 412-6903.