Trust in America
At Gold Forum this year
I had the chance to make my fifth speech to some of our largest clients and partners. This is a great honor and a stressful one! It is an honor because I get to share my thoughts with 500 important people for an hour. It is stressful for the same reason - I have an hour in front of 500 people and I need to think of something useful to talk about!
This year I chose to talk about something that is near and dear to my heart: trust. Our country, and perhaps the entire world, is in a crisis of trust. Now I know what you are thinking - he's going to get political. No, I am not, and did not! In fact, I spoke about the empirical loss of trust we are seeing in business, media and government. In other words, the loss of trust we are experiencing across institutions.
I chose this topic also because it hits close to home. We are in the trust business, so a decline in trust is quite simply bad for business. And when I say "we," I mean you and me. Investors depend on us to help them navigate this very complex and scary world. They need us to help them figure out and quantify their dreams. Then, they need us to help them make those dreams a reality. If investors can't trust us, we have no way to help them. We might as well be salespeople selling just another product!
In my speech, I tried to dissect what Americans are saying about institutions (business, media and government). We did a great deal of research and found, among many good sources, the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer
. This survey found that in 2017, 68% of Informed Americans ranked themselves as having trust1
. In 2018, only 45% said that.2
The decline in trust of government was the most dramatic, falling from 63% to 33% during the same period.3
I spent the next 15 or so minutes describing what has happened and tried to place the blame where the blame belongs, on leaders across these institutions. Frankly, it is pretty easy to describe the actions of leaders in business, government and media for the last several decades to demonstrate that what we are seeing now had been simmering for a long, long time.
However, I believe that there is a change afoot. People are speaking out. You see it all around you. Companies are stepping up. I don't see it yet in media or government but when people speak out and use their pocketbooks to force change, it has some chance of happening.
We are at an inflection point. Change needs to get momentum now and I believe that we, you and me, are in a great place to push this ball up the hill. And it will be up a hill. But you are leaders in your communities. Your clients are important people and you have influence on them. You can get them to take action as well. You are on boards, involved with charities, and engage in social places where rational discourse takes place. You can make a difference by positively engaging in the places you go each and every day.
It is also on my mind because, as I've said, it's good for our businesses. If we lead by building back trust, people will invest. If we do our jobs right, those investments will help fund our clients' dreams and aspirations. After all, investing is all about trust in a system that is bigger than any of us.
My speech was an hour long. I spent some time talking about how AssetMark is doing so that you can know your partner is in good shape (thanks to you!). After my discussion on trust, I shared some thoughts on how you can build your brand - your story - based on trust. You can see the entire speech here
We make a difference in the lives of others. We can only do that in an environment of trust. My ask of you: don't let this moment pass. Let's build trust back into our companies, communities and institutions. We can do this.
1. Edelman Trust Barometer Executive Summary, January 2018
2. Edelman Trust Barometer Executive Summary, January 2018
3. Edelman Trust Barometer Executive Summary, January 2018