From revelations about shady banking practices and multi-billion-dollar bailouts to raucous protests by Occupy Wall Street, the financial services industry has gotten some pretty bad press over the past few years.
Now it seems Wall Street is accepting some of the blame for its villainous reputation, according to a new study.
A whopping 96 percent of marketing executives surveyed last month by communications firm Makovsky said their firms "invited negative public perception" through their actions (or inactions), with nearly 60 percent of respondents grading the industry's image as average, below average, or failing.
Negative public perception topped the list of challenges for financial services firms over the next year, the survey found.
But in a somewhat surprising twist, almost three in four surveyed said more rules and regulations were the remedy for Wall Street's tarnished public image.
The latest word from Wall Street executives represents a shift in how the industry views its relationship with customers, the survey said.
"There has been a shift in priority from recovering and stabilizing to focusing on customer satisfaction, employee communications and improving public perception," said Scott Tangney, executive vice president and head of the financial services practice at Makovsky, in a statement. "Our study reveals that companies are in transition, and this new strategy involves both external and internal integrated communications efforts."
[Read: The Real Cost of the 2008 Bailouts.]
Part of that strategy is doing damage control when it comes to the Occupy Wall Street movement, which continues to be a thorn in the financial industry's side. More than half of executives surveyed said the Occupiers had a "real impact" on their business and more than 70 percent expected the movement to live on beyond November's presidential election.
"With the six-month anniversary of the movement sparking a resurgence, the consensus is that Occupy Wall Street is not going away anytime soon, and financial services executives need to be better prepared to address this issue moving forward," Tangney said.
But some firms are starting off with more of an advantage than others, the study found. When asked which financial services companies have the best reputations, Wells Fargo and Bank of America topped the list followed by Citibank and Chase.
Firms such as Goldman Sachs unsurprisingly scored some of the worst marks when it came to public image, not least because of the recent—and infamous—resignation of Goldman executive Greg Smith, who very publicly lambasted the firm for its toxic environment and culture of greed.