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Two Polls, Two Conclusions on Whether Consumers (Still) Trust Banks

CashEdge and Cisco come to differing opinions on the levels of trust consumers place in their banks.

When two technology vendors to the financial industry surveyed consumers to see, in part, whether they trust banks more than nonbanks with their money, two contradictory results emerged. Essentially, a survey by CashEdge, a New York-based vendor of funds transfer software, said "yes," while a Cisco Systems (San Jose, Calif.) survey said "no."

Both studies were conducted in August 2008 and released within days of each other in late September -- before a string of disastrous financial firsts in October clearly eroded consumers' trust in banks. Both companies surveyed consumers who are comfortable online, but the surveys differed in size, audience composition and, perhaps most important, how they worded their trust-related queries. And while the CashEdge survey of 450 online banking customers was conducted via online survey tool Zoomerang (San Francisco), Cisco had its own research unit survey 1,500 broadband users who do not necessarily bank online.

Two technology vendors to the financial industry surveyed consumers to see whether they trust banks more than nonbanks with their money, two contradictory results emerged.

The studies did not ask exactly the same question. CashEdge arguably worded its question in a way that favored banks, by emphasizing the current inconvenience of using a nonbank payment service, such as PayPal, that requires a separately funded account in addition to one's checking account: "Assume that your current bank offered a service similar to PayPal. ... [Assume] all of your money flowed directly into and out of your bank account such that you did not have to manage a separate PayPal account. Would you use this bank service?"

On the other hand, Cisco asked consumers directly to rate their trust in banks and nonbanks on a five-point scale, ranging from "distrust very much" to "trust very much." And whereas CashEdge referred only to PayPal, Cisco named a wide range of possible nonbank payment providers when polling consumers, including PayPal, BillMeLater, Google Checkout, Amazon Payments, TextBuyIt, eBillMe, Revolution and Obopay.

Asked to explain the discrepancies in their findings, each vendor said it was not familiar with the other's study. However, Jeremy Sokolic, VP of marketing with CashEdge, suggested it was more meaningful for banks to get the views of consumers who already bank online.

Links to the complete surveys can be found on the companies' Web sites: www.cashedge.com (users will need to register to view the survey) and www.cisco.com/go/ibsg/financialservices.

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