News article

An open letter to (some) networks: Please fix your financial promotion approval processes

We’re all busy, so I’ll cut to the chase: the time it’s taking some networks to sign off financial promotions (including newsletters, blogs, and articles) is causing frustration among advisers and planners.

More importantly, the delays are making it harder for your members to communicate with clients, at precisely the time they should be increasing the frequency of communications.

In this letter, I’m going to explain the problems in more detail and suggest three potential solutions.

Delays disadvantage your members and their clients

Through our Yardstick Membership proposition, we manage newsletters for more than 230 advice/planning firms. Each month, we’re left with a list of firms who haven’t been able to send their newsletter on time because of delays in compliance approval.

Recently, a handful of advisers have become so frustrated with the delays, they’ve cancelled their newsletter subscription.

The issue is a simple one: the length of time it’s taking some networks (not all) to sign off financial promotions.

Blogs, articles, and newsletters are the cause of most concern as they all have a natural deadline. The longest we’ve been quoted to sign off a newsletter is eight weeks. Another network still hasn’t approved an adviser’s June or July newsletters.

The implications, for you, your members, and their clients are wide-ranging:

  • The current economic climate, with rising inflation, stock market volatility and higher interest rates means your members’ clients are understandably anxious. They need information, confidence and reassurance from their adviser/planner. Newsletters, delivered on time, are a crucial way of providing all three. That’s not possible if content isn’t being signed off in a timely way.
  • Delays in approving content mean your members are at a competitive disadvantage. If other firms have content approved more quickly, it’s they who could be communicating with your member’s clients.
  • Consistency of communication is key. It’s one of the reasons we aim to send all newsletters at the same time each week/month. The delays we’re seeing from some networks make that aim almost impossible to achieve.
  • If content isn’t approved in a timely way, and frustrations rise, your members could look to alternatives, by moving networks or seeking direct authorisation.

3 possible solutions

We know it’s possible to turn financial promotions around quickly and to a high standard. Almost all providers of compliance support to directly authorised firms achieve both. Sadly, although some get it right, the same can’t be said of many networks.

We believe there are three possible solutions:

1. Commit more resources

As advisers/planners take marketing increasingly seriously it’s bound to lead to an increase in demand for the approval of financial promotions. Consequently, networks need to commit additional resources. However, in many cases, the number of people reviewing financial promotions hasn’t kept up with demand.

Part of the answer, therefore, must lie in committing additional resources to solve the issue. Initially, to deal with any backlog and then ensure that resources meet demand in the future.

2. Identify peak periods of demand

There will always be times when the demand for approvals rises. For example, when the Budget or other significant announcements are made, demand will increase. The same will also be true during periods of stock market volatility.

Spotting potential peaks and having greater flexibility of resourcing is the key here. If team members can be multi-skilled, allowing them to cope with demand when it’s high, and then work on other priorities when it falls, it would significantly help the issue.

3. Look for obvious efficiencies and economies of scale

Each month, advisers and planners who take Yardstick Membership (our newsletter and blogging service) receive a free branded guide they can use with their clients. Naturally, it needs to be approved.

Each month, we often have multiple firms in the same network taking the guide, which provides an obvious efficiency opportunity. However, at least one network insists on each Appointed Representative (AR) submitting the guide separately. It’s then reviewed multiple times, often by different people, which means we get a different set of amends from each review.

It really doesn’t have to be this way.

One network has taken a more pragmatic approach. They review all our content (blogs, guides, and newsletters) once for their members. That means each blog, guide and newsletter is submitted once to the network, not multiple times. It’s far more efficient, saves money and reduces frustration.

Another opportunity to drive efficiency can be found in the lines of communication. In common with most compliance service providers, some networks will allow us to communicate directly with them. Others, however, insist that all communications come through the firm.

So, we email the financial promotions to the firm that forwards them to their network. Once reviewed, the network emails the firm who forwards the feedback to us. We then make the changes and email the amended promotion to the client who passes it to compliance for (hopefully) sign-off.

It’s a complete waste of the adviser/planner’s time, delays promotions being signed off and causes huge frustration. Especially when there’s such a simple and obvious answer.

We want to work more closely with you

Solving the delays in the approval process will benefit you, your members, and (most importantly) their clients.

The volume of newsletters we produce, and the number of networks/support providers we work with means we see both good and poor practice. We’re keen on sharing what we see working elsewhere and understanding how we can make your life easier.

Please get in touch by emailing or call 0115 8965 300. We really do want to hear from you.

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