By Ryan Rainey
June 6, 2016 at 7:35 am ET
Too-big-to-fail financial institutions might be under tight scrutiny by regulators in Washington, D.C., but many of them are held in high esteem by the public, according to the Morning Consult Brand Index, an indicator that tracks favorability for every Fortune 500 company.
Major Fortune 500 institutions hit with the too-big-to-fail label have some of the highest public opinion ratings of all financial companies. The two most popular systemically important financial institutions — General Electric (67 percent favorability) and MetLife Inc. (59 percent favorability), both received A and A- ratings, respectively.
GE, whose business extends from consumer products to aircraft engines, is currently in the process of spinning off its financial operations organized under GE Capital in an effort to shed its designation as a systematically important financial institution.
Other financial companies with A or A- ratings were Aflac Inc. (59 percent favorability, A), The American Express Company (60 percent favorability, A-), Allstate Corp. (61 percent favorability, A-), and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. (58 percent favorability, A-).
Technology companies are more popular than firms in other industries. For example, 13 technology companies received A+, A-, or A ratings, compared with just six in the financial sector. Two healthcare companies, St. Jude Medical, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson received A+ and A ratings, respectively.
In finance, other popular systemically important firms include Wells Fargo & Co., which boasts a B+ grade with a 56 percent approval rating and JPMorgan Chase & Co., the largest bank in the world by assets, had a B+ grade with 48 percent favorability.
Bank of America Corp. (45 percent favorability), Citigroup Inc. (44 percent favorability), Morgan Stanley (38 percent favorability) and Prudential Financial, Inc. (43 percent favorability) all received B rankings.
All of those institutions, with the possible exception of Morgan Stanley, have one thing in common: They are ubiquitous public presences bolstered by consumer-facing operations and popular advertising campaigns with mascots like MetLife’s Snoopy and Aflac’s irascible duck.
Other companies weren’t so lucky. Goldman Sachs, a major bank that’s often mentioned in political discussions but lacks a consumer-facing operation, was among the year’s most unpopular banks, with a C+ grade. Thirty-two percent of surveyed Americans had an unfavorable opinion of the investment banking giant compared to 24 percent with a favorable opinion. Goldman had the second-highest unfavorable rating of all Fortune 500 companies.
Fannie Mae, which received a B grade, had the highest unfavorable rating in that category (33 percent). Its cousin government-sponsored enterprise, Freddie Mac, had a B- grade with a 28 percent favorable and 30 percent unfavorable rating.
Other poorly graded major companies include State Street Corp. (21 percent favorability, C+), Fifth Third Bank Corp. (23 percent favorability, C+), Ally Financial (25 percent favorability, C+), and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (22 percent favorability, C).
The Morning Consult Brand Index letter grade is assigned on a curve using the ratio of a company’s favorable and unfavorable scores, and overall favorability. This ensures that the grading represents how a company is viewed by those who know it and does not penalize companies that have low brand recognition.
Note: Company favorability ratings in Morning Consult Intelligence are regularly updated with new polling data. The numbers in this story may have shifted slightly since publication.
Ryan Rainey previously worked at Morning Consult as a reporter covering finance.