Putting the spotlight on trust

The Lord Mayor of London
The Lord Mayor, Alderman Charles Bowman.

Hello and welcome to the first of three blogs that I am writing as the 690th Lord Mayor of the City of London, giving me an opportunity to share with you all my theme for the year:  The Business of Trust, which I launched in November 2017.

Each Lord Mayor gets to choose the subject matter that will be the focus of their entire year. I have chosen mine to be trust, as I believe it is a fundamental part of our society and how we function. Everything we do is based on trust, demonstrated by the language of trust:

  • We invest in trusts;
  • We regularly solicit advice from trusted professionals;
  • Even the banknotes in our pockets are a promise of trust, “I promised to pay the bearer on demand the sum of 5 pounds”.

It’s not just financial services that rely so heavily on trust.  Stephan Knack, senior economist at the World Bank, calculated that trust is worth 99.5% of the US economy.

But despite trust being a central component to a functioning economy, trust in business is at an all time low.

In 2017, the PR company Edelman reported the biggest ever drop in global trust in institutions. Their trust barometer, produced annually, indicated that business, media, NGOs and government were all found to be distrusted by the public.

The basis of the Business of Trust is to understand how we can rebuild this loss of trust.

Starting with a business review, we assembled a team within the City of London Corporation to assess the many thousands of man-years of activity that professional bodies, businesses and institutions have put into standards, codes of conduct and ethics. From this work, and through conversations with Citizens Juries across the UK, we were able to create five principles for rebuilding trust which fall into the acronym CIVIC.  Those CIVIC principles are:

  • Competence and skills –business must do what it does well.
  • Integrity – business must do the right thing
  • Value to society – business must have a wider purpose
  • Interests of others – business must focus on the customer and other stakeholders
  • Clear communication – business must communicate clearly

Over the past 10 months, we have been using what’s called the “soft power” of the Lord Mayor and the City Corporation to take the subject of trust forward, recognising that our role is not to tell or to regulate but to encourage, support, facilitate and ultimately bring together, the City, the UK’s financial and professional services, and our international partners. Remembering that financial and professional services employ over 2.3m people and of these only 400k work in the City.

As such, I have been discussing the Business of Trust on both my regional and international visits. In Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, and Belfast to name but a few, all of whom share my passion for the subject of trust. I have also seen the message of trust resonate with global audiences on my international visits programme during which I visit 25 countries over 100 days of my mayoralty.

Back at home, in February, we published an insight paper which was aimed at business, on the themes of public perception and trustworthiness.

So far, this has reached more than 1500 of our key stakeholders, 4000 readers via the press, and has been strongly received on Twitter.

And we are continuing to learn more about the public perception of trust in business through my Business of Trust survey. This can be found at the top of my Twitter page – @citylordmayor. Everyone’s views are welcome so please do contribute!

We believe this is a strong start to a long-term mission to rebuild trust in our communities.

In my next blog, I will be talking more about how organisations are taking action to regain trust, in the City, across the UK, or internationally.

Thank you for reading and I hope you all find time to engage with the #BusinessofTrust.Untitled design (16)

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