Financial industry tries image revamp

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TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: You remember that big push for change from a certain presidential campaign last year? We learned today the financial services industry is out for a little change of its own. It's launched a publicity campaign to fight back against what it sees as unfair criticism. Bloomberg News reports today that the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, that's one of Wall Street's biggest lobbying groups, is pushing the image revamp. And it's spending nearly $85,000 a month to win back the good graces of the outside world. From New York, Ashley Milne-Tyte reports.


ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: The Association asked pollsters to gauge the public mood. What they found wasn't pretty. Cornell Belcher runs Brilliant Corners Research, a polling company. He worked on the Obama campaign and was hired by SIFMA to help it "embrace change."

CORNELL BELCHER: It is part of this new patriotism that's sweeping this country where corporations need to be held to a higher standard as well. You know, you've got to be a good corporate citizen, you've got to be a corporate patriot in this environment or the consumers are gonna punish you.

Rather than conducting a high-profile media blitz SIFMA is taking a grass-roots approach. The group is using lesser known, untainted regional financial firms to get its message to Congress via local politicians. A large part of that message is that the securities industry has its own reform ideas.

Dan Simon is managing director at Cognito, a PR company for the financial services industry. He says the industry could have acted much faster to protect its image...

DAN SIMON: Actually being ahead of regulators or being at least, being seen to be ahead of kind of public sentiment is absolutely crucial.

SIFMA recently announced its own recommendations on executive pay. Hugh Johnson is chief economist at Johnson Illington Advisors. He says Congress has been passing reforms as fast as a speeding train. The securities industry is on a PR push to slow the regulatory reform express.

HUGH JOHNSON: Which has already left the station. And they want to become very much a part of shaping that regulation so that it doesn't go too far and do serious damage to Wall Street.

He says they know if they don't act, they risk being shunted aside.

In New York, I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

About the author

Ashley Milne-Tyte is the host of a podcast about women in the workplace called The Broad Experience.

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