CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (5/27/09)--Amidst the worst financial crisis in years, credit unions have come out on top in terms of member/customer advocacy and trust--beating U.S. banks, investment firms and insurers--in a new survey released Tuesday by Forrester Research Inc. In "Customer Advocacy 2009: How Customers Rate U.S. Banks, Investment Firms and Insurers," credit unions achieved top ratings from 68% of consumers surveyed. Their rating was 16 percentage points higher than regional or local banks, which were ranked at 52%, and 27 percentage points above the largest bank rating, that of Washington Mutual at 41%. Credit unions' rank remains unchanged from the previous survey. In previous years, only insurance company USAA outranked credit unions. This year, the company's ranking dropped more than 5% to tie with credit unions. Independent financial advisors received a score of 61%, followed by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. and an independent insurance agent tied at 53%; and Progressive and "a regional or local bank" tied at 52%. The survey ranks financial services companies based on their member/customers' perception that their providers are looking out for their best interests, not just the institution's bottom line. For the first time--and reflecting investors' dissatisfaction with their investment portfolios-- brokerage firms plummeted to the bottom of the list. Large national banks have traditionally held the bottom ratings. A common trait among the top scorers: many are customer-owned organizations, like credit unions or mutual insurance companies such as State Farm, said Forrester's report, written by Bill Doyle, Forrester vice president and principal analyst. Forrester also found that the higher the rank, the more likely the institution would keep its member/customers and the more likely those member/customers would buy more products. For the first time since the study began, the nation's three largest banks--Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo--climbed from the bottom. Still, banks continued to dominate the cellar. Nine of the 13 lowest-rated firms are banks, according to the report. This year, the cellar position went to Capital One Bank.