Investors worldwide have little faith in the investment profession and believe there is much that can be done to restore trust, according to the CFA Institute/Edelman Investor Trust Study, which found that just 53 percent of investors in the US, UK, Hong Kong, Canada and Australia trust investment firms to do what is right.

Retail investors are less trusting of the industry (51 percent) than their institutional counterparts (61 percent), and investors in the US (44 percent) and UK (39 percent) are less trusting than those in Hong Kong (68 percent).

This lack of trust in the investment industry does not translate to the capital markets; nearly three-in-four investors report they are optimistic about their ability to earn a fair return in capital markets. Yet intensity of that confidence is low, as just 19 percent of investors “strongly agree” that they have a fair opportunity.

“Trust is absolutely critical to the future of finance, and it is up to all of us to help shape a more trustworthy financial system,” says John Rogers, CFA, president and CEO of CFA Institute. “Investors believe the professionals they work with have been the most effective in earning their trust. This represents a significant opportunity for investment professionals and firms to actively build a culture where ethical practices are valued as highly as investment performance.”

Just over half of investors (55 percent) note that investment managers they work with have been the most effective in enhancing their trust in the capital markets, more than investment firms (41 percent), national regulators (38 percent) or global regulators (35 percent).

Looking to the future, investors do expect government to help build trust in capital markets. More  than half (52 percent) point to national and global regulators as having the greatest opportunity to effect change and enhance trust moving forward, far more than individual investment management professionals (28 percent) and investment management firms (13 percent).

“When people lost trust in business during the financial crisis, they turned to government. And when they lost trust in government, they turned to individuals,” says Ben Boyd, global chair of Edelman’s corporate practice.

The study also reveals that putting investors’ interests first is critical. Investors report that trusting an investment manager to act in their best interest is the single most important factor in making a hiring decision. Achieving high returns was cited only half as often, and fee amounts/structure only a fifth as much.

Investors also indicate that behavior-related attributes—including transparent and open business practices, responsible actions to address an issue or crisis and ethical business practices—are more important to trust-building than performance-related attributes such as delivering consistent financial returns and offering high quality products or services.