byLorraine Bolger.
 Published: 04/10/2019

Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of attending a breakfast briefing at The Westbury Hotel run by The Dublin Chamber of Commerce, entitled

‘Are we running out of trust? Power and responsibility in a digital age’.

The expert panel of speakers included: Tony O’Malley, CEO, Fujitsu, David Kelly, Director of Public Affairs, Ervia and Niamh Boyle, Founder of The Reputations Agency.

Tony O’Malley CEO, Fujitsu, kicked off this insightful breakfast meeting with the following powerful statement – “Trust is a currency; trust is a rare commodity, trust can affect stock prices, investor relations & retaining staff.”

He further explained that having a viable brand and a reputable reputation is both difficult to come by and sustain in the ever-increasing and encroaching digital era that we live in. The pace of change in the last five years has been unprecedented in this sphere, on the one hand, exciting consumers, investors and the public at large in certain sectors such as education, banking and 5G. However, it has also made them anxious in areas such as Quantum learning and AI to name just a few.

He believes that the ‘apparent’ lack of security, transparency, trust and accountability are the keys to the public’s anxiety in this regard. At times the public ‘perception’ of the actions of big companies is that although they offer spin and lip service to the greater good, they do not really care nor want to contribute to society.

This point was backed up by Niamh Boyle – Founder of The Reputation Agency

She believes that “Trust is one of the most important components in business. Trust gives you a platform, so if you make a mistake you will get through it if you have a good reputation.”

In Ireland, there was a dip in ‘trust’ in the years 2012 and 2013. We experienced a fall in trust in varying institutions, from banks to The Church. Instead, people started to place more of their trust in communities rather than anonymous institutions, valuing more, human contact, connection and touch to faceless technological giants who seem greedy and self-obsessed.

Facebook is a perfect and timely example of a major tech company who has not been able to sustain their reputation, resulting as it did in a big loss in stock value due to the public’s lack of trust. They chose to not be proactive enough, nor to react wisely enough to the negative issues concerning their business model.

Today the public is looking more towards community-focused businesses. In Ireland for example, Board Bia, The Credit Union and Aer Lingus have achieved top ranking in this regard using wisely the wisdom that ‘ Trust is built over time and gives you a grace period.’

David Kelly, Director of Public Affairs, Ervia has his own perspective on trust, seeing it as ‘Customers not having to think about the company, if you are doing the right thing this is how it should be.’ From experience David knows full well that inheriting infrastructure and having to rebuild trust, is no easy task. ‘But is completely achievable, you must always be informing customers of issues and be upfront and there is always room to improve.’

Companies such as Amazon and GM have taken the time to sit down and discuss what is important in today’s digital world, they see that investing in employees and the community is high on the agenda.

If you want to be trusted you must take CSR more seriously, this has to be sustainable, for example, Fujitsu has committed to reducing their carbon footprint.

You can’t just be good at what you do you have to be great at it.

Or as Steven Covey says – “Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people. But it takes time and patience.”