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Experts defy falling public trust

A new survey shows that while public trust in institutions may be falling, trust in experts remains high.

The Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) survey, held across Australia and New Zealand, shows technical experts such as doctors are trusted by 88 per cent of New Zealand respondents, followed by engineers (84 per cent) and accountants (75 per cent). In contrast, political parties are the least trusted institution, trusted by only 29 per cent of New Zealanders.

Peter Vial, New Zealand Country Head of CA ANZ, said that, while trust in institutions was falling, “trust in experts and specialists, such as accountants, remains high.

“Trust in experts is a constant. An explanation could be that experts are seen as objective – they speak from their expertise rather than from an ideological or self-serving position.”

He said this may help explain why accountants have retained trust against a backdrop of issues in the financial sector.

In January the Financial Markets Authority and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand issued an unfavourable report on aspects of the conduct and culture in the life insurance industry. The two regulators also issued a report at the end of 2018 identifying “significant weaknesses” in the governance and management of bank conduct risks.

The trust ratings are based on a survey commissioned by CA ANZ and designed to generate a deeper understanding of trust in institutions and professions.

The least trusted institutions among the 16 groups included in the CA ANZ survey are political parties at 29 per cent, followed by religious institutions at 37 per cent and by the news media at 43 per cent.

Another key report finding is that the shift towards increased use of technology to communicate is not damaging trust in professional services, but the accompanying move away from face-to-face contact is.

“As we move towards more electronic communication, professionals must not neglect more traditional ways of maintaining relationships, such as meeting people and getting on the phone,” Vial said.

Other key report findings include:

• In general, New Zealand has higher levels of trust in professionals than Australia
• High levels of trust have significant benefits for businesses and professionals
• The importance of communicating a commitment to honesty and ethical behaviour
• Dishonesty and a lack of ethical behaviour are most likely to decrease trust.

The full report can be accessed here

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