The websites we develop, the blogs we write and newsletters we send are, almost without exception, financial promotions. Financial marketing and compliance go together like birds of a feather, So, it should come as no surprise therefore that we have almost daily interactions with ‘compliance’, who typically fall into one of three camps:
- Networks who authorise their appointed representatives
- Internal compliance departments of larger organisations
- Firms providing support and consultancy to directly authorised advisers and planners
For the sake of simplicity, we’ll refer to all three collectively as ‘compliance’ in this article. However, we recognise the nuances and subtleties of each.
Although there’s the odd notable exception (a prize should be awarded to the person who requested a capital at risk warning be included in an article exclusively about Premium Bonds, with a runner-up prize for the request to add a risk warning in the subject line of an email newsletter) we find most to be extremely sensible and easy to deal with. We’ve developed some great relationships too, which benefit our clients. Indeed, one network even took the trouble to call us a couple of weeks ago just to say; “I wish everyone did it like you.”
However, we know that not all advisers and planners have such positive relationships with their network, compliance support or department. In turn, this leads to frustration, a waste of precious time and resources, while holding up important projects and ultimately, in the worst cases, restricting growth.
It doesn’t have to be that way though. So, here are our top tips for working in harmony with your compliance department.
1. Build a positive relationship
You’re far more likely to work effectively, and indeed get an outcome with which you are happy if you have a positive working relationship with compliance.
That’s starts with the basics.
As Patrick Swayze said in Roadhouse (a favourite Friday night movie of mine): “Be nice.”
Actually, he said: “Be nice, until it’s time not to be nice.” Nevertheless, we’d suggest that, no matter how hard it might be, treat compliance with courtesy and respect, it’ll go a long way and may even (sadly) set you apart from other advisers and planners with whom they must deal.
2. Make their life easy
There’s a direct link between making life easier for compliance and getting speedy answers. You still might not get the response you want, but at least you will know where you stand more quickly and can then take appropriate action.
For example, every compliance department has a process for receiving, reviewing and approving financial promotions. They will thank you for understanding their processes, working to them and ultimately making their life easier.
Give clear and detailed instructions and answers too; sometimes brevity helps, it can also be a hindrance though leading to confusion and misinterpretation.
That, of course, works both ways; it’s far easier to work with compliance who provide clear, definitive and consistent instructions and guidance.
3. Engage at an early stage of big projects
Over time, getting regular and similar items approved, such as blogs or newsletters, should become second nature.
However, other one-off or larger projects, such as a new website, might mean working to unfamiliar processes. Engaging with compliance at an early stage, explaining your plans and getting their input, while taking the time to understand their requirements and processes, will make things run far more smoothly towards the end of the project as you seek sign off or approval.
4. Know the rules: Part one
Understanding the rules will prevent you from sending financial promotions to compliance which stand no chance of being approved and destined to be swiftly returned with requests for significant changes.
The better you know the rules, and the greater the effort made to comply, the sooner your financial promotions will be approved and can start working for you.
5. Know their rules: Part two
While all advisory firms ultimately work to the same rules some compliance departments / teams will have their own additional requirements. We find this is particularly the case with networks.
Take risk warnings on websites as an example, some will insist they are displayed at the top of each page, others are happy with them being in the footer. Social media is another example; we know of a network which, while happy with their advisers posting on LinkedIn and Twitter, won’t allow financial promotions to be posted on Facebook.
That’s clearly illogical and in many ways frustrating. But it shows the importance of understanding the rules.
Understanding both the FCAs rules and others, specific to your compliance department / team is crucial.
6. Don’t post promotions on social media
We know some compliance departments get very nervous at the thought of advisers and planners posting on social media. It’s certainly an area where many networks have rules which go further than those of the regulator and often ask for posts and tweets to be pre-approved.
Yet there’s a very simple solution to the problem; don’t post financial promotions.
At a stroke it’ll mean compliance won’t (we hope) need to approve your social media activity. Furthermore, you’re not missing out on anything; sales messages rarely work on social media anyway. Far better to stick to adding value and engaging with your connections.
7. Plan ahead
There may be times when asking compliance to review and approve a financial promotion quickly is unavoidable. If you’ve followed our other tips you have a better chance of compliance re-prioritising their workload to help you out.
However, where possible, plan ahead. Understanding their turnaround times and whether they generally work to them, will allow you to build in enough time into the production process. Remember to build in a contingency for amends too, or a bit of to and fro, as you work with them to comply the promotion.
8. Finally, where there’s something wrong, tell them
No one gets everything right all the time, including compliance.
Offering constructive feedback where you believe something has gone wrong, will help them improve their service and should be welcomed.
The reward for working well with compliance?
Compliance has an important function in every regulated business. I’m yet to see an occasion where it has rendered a marketing campaign or financial promotion ineffective. However, there are bound to be frustrations, from which we aren’t immune!
Hopefully though, implementing these tips will ultimately lead to the speedier approval of your financial promotions, allowing them to get to work more quickly to achieve their ultimate goal.