Who is managing your Trust Risk?


The financial services industry has taken numerous steps to rebuild the trust which was shattered during the financial crisis. Over a decade later, do the current control structures deliver the high levels of enduring trust that are now expected? Or is it time to redesign the approach to managing organizational trust?

With societal expectation of business becoming an ever more powerful force, long-term success is reliant on balancing the interests of a much wider spectrum of stakeholders than just shareholders. Customers, employees, communities, regulators, and governments – all must be factored into strategic decision-making today – and retaining high levels of trust with each of these is key to be able to execute smoothly.


Do they trust you to deliver the right services and products at the right price?


Do they trust you to treat them respectfully and foster an inclusive culture that enables them to reach their full potential?


Are you trusted to act in the best interest of the communities your activities touch, and to work in partnership to improve them?


Do they trust you to comply with the spirit of the rules and promote the regulatory system, rather than using it to seek competitive and financial gain?


Do they trust you to help contribute to the greater good of society as a whole?


Many organizations must now think much more carefully about how they engage with these groups, as the risk of not getting this stakeholder balance right –

the Trust Risk – is huge.

Who is your Chief Trust Officer?

So, who is responsible for creating and maintaining high levels of trust with these stakeholders at ExCo? Is it an individual or a collection of individuals? At first glance, these four key functional leaders are potential candidates, and already cover elements of the brief.

Chief Risk Officer

Over the last decade there has been a definitive shift towards non-financial risk, creating a much broader and more prominent role. Is it a natural evolution to include Trust Risk within the CRO’s remit?

General Counsel/Company Secretary

Traditionally seen as the “conscience” of the organization and a highly trusted bridge between the Board and executives. Could this remit be extended into a convening role ensuring all elements of Trust Risk are considered in ExCo and Board decision-making?

Chief Compliance Officer

Conduct is a core element of Trust Risk that has, in many organizations, elevated the CCO to ExCo. Already closely aligned to this agenda, is the role close enough to the strategic decision-making to have sufficient influence?

Chief HR Officer

A key guardian of the culture with a critical role in ensuring a level playing field for talent and leading on key Trust Risk topics including D&I and remuneration. The HR remit is rarely combined with others, but could it take on more Trust Risk responsibility?

There are others who lead elements of this agenda, such as the Head of Government/Public Affairs and the Chief Communications Officer. And, of course, there is the CEO who is surely the ultimate Chief Trust Officer, and whose success will be dependent on how well trust is maintained.

However, for the most complex organizations and in times of crisis, is there now a need for a standalone Chief Trust Officer in a convening role across the business?

Either way, how does a company approach the management of its Trust Risk and, to that end, how does it measure it?

Then there is the role of the Board.

What next?

In seeking to answer these questions, we are exploring this emerging issue with clients. We would welcome your thoughts and comments and look forward to returning with our findings.

The Belonging Project

We launched the Belonging Project, conducting over 100 interviews globally with a diverse range of people. Our research reaffirmed our core belief: organizations that create a strong sense of Belonging are more successful – in business, employee satisfaction and longevity. Belonging is the proven cornerstone of success.


When we founded Hedley May, we made a commitment to make a positive impact on our broader communities. We focus on providing opportunity to the underserved through mentorship, internships, workshops and other career development initiatives. We are also dedicated advocates and supporters of numerous social mobility programs.