The C word; it's the bane of the financial services industry. That’s compliance, in case you wondered, and it seems to feature in every facet of life for financial institutions - Dodd Frank, MiFID, EMIR, Basel II...the list goes on.
It’s no different in marketing and communications - whether you’re promoting a business loan, mortgage, insurance product or a spread betting service there is no getting away from compliance issues.
You can wade through all the rules and regs, but we’ve boiled it down into five key tips that should help you stay on the right side of the regulators.
Use a checklist
A checklist can be a life saver for ensuring you always produce a compliant piece of content and stick to your own in-house rules. But a box-ticking exercise is not enough itself - always stand back and take a broader look.
“Using a checklist alone will not necessarily guarantee compliant promotions; nor will it necessarily be proof of adequate systems and controls,” cautions the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Warning: too many warnings
Warnings often have to be added to promotions. Trading firms and spread betting companies usually need to stress how losses can exceed deposits, for instance. Some place this red light on every tweet, but that could be going too far.
You don’t want to make financial services become like cigarette packets where you have to slap on so many warnings you can’t even see the product or the brand.
Go too far and you may also incur the wrath of the regulators.
“Irrelevant or inappropriate warnings may only discourage or confuse consumers for no useful reason and will result in the advert being unclear,” advises the FCA.
It’s up to the firm to make sure it’s complying with the rules before publication. So, firms must decide who is going to make the all-important sign-off. This is not just important for compliance; it’s also vital to ensure campaign collateral gets used properly and in a timely fashion. How many times does the sign-off process hold up your campaigns?
Check the small print
Of course we all use small print for financial content. Who wants header images drubbed in warnings? But we should never “disguise, obscure or diminish the significance of any important statement or warning”, according to the FCA.
Remember the holy trinity
Every piece of marketing material in financial services should show balance, clarity and not be misleading.Consumers need to get the full picture about the pros and cons of whatever you’re offering. They must not get an unrealistic impression of the product. False claims are a no-no. And don’t cherry pick the good stuff - reveal all the information to consumers.