Compliance Isn’t the Problem — People Are the Problem
If you’ve worked in marketing for a few years, I’m sure this has happened to you. You send your marketing materials to your compliance person and they come back with changes and directives that reduce the impact of the copy or ruin the great creative idea.
The issue of compliance officers came up on The Financial Brand blog where the ACTON Marketing blog team was invited to write a post. We critiqued a self-mailer from Chase Bank. One of the reader comments said the format of the mailer was a great idea, but it wouldn’t make it past his compliance people.
I realize marketing professionals, especially at community banks and credit unions, face the compliance dilemma quite often.
Recently, for example, a compliance officer sent back a mail promotion we created for the client and added asterisks to each free checking reference. I pointed out, asterisks haven’t been used like this for over 15 years. Let’s face it. If no other financial institution in the country is using “Free Checking*” and none of them have been hand-slapped by the regulators in all that time, then it’s safe to say the asterisk is unnecessary.
But the marketing individual admitted she was afraid to contradict what the compliance person said.
We can grumble about compliance people all we want and make all sorts of nasty references about them behind their backs, but none of that accomplishes anything. So instead, let’s try to take a more active, positive approach.
Try this. First, collect every bit of bank and credit union marketing materials you can find. Everything: mail pieces, print ads, flyers, in-branch handouts, email promotions.
You should already be actively collecting these items so you know what your competitors are doing. Especially be on the lookout for materials from the mega-banks. After all, they have an army of compliance people and they have a much bigger marketing staff than your community financial institution.
Next, go to the executives of your bank or credit union and ask them to support your department when your compliance person makes unnecessary demands. After all, your job is to promote your institution in the best way you can.
Then, you combine the first and second steps. Let’s use the example I mentioned above. Your compliance person returns your marketing materials with asterisks tacked onto every free checking reference. You know it’s inappropriate, so what do you do?
Because you have samples of what other financial institutions have created for similar product promotions, you can go to the compliance person/executives and present your case something like this:
“None of our local competitors are using the asterisk for this kind of promotion. In fact, I have samples from these big banks and their compliance staffs don’t require the asterisk either. The asterisk will only make the prospects suspicious and deflate our response.”
After you present this sort of rationale, you hope the compliance/executives side with you. This can work. I know from my experience “on the other side of the desk” when I was in a position like yours.
If you’re “afraid” of your compliance officer, then there’s a different problem. You both need an attitude adjustment because you’re fearful of confrontation (which limits your accomplishments) and your compliance person with the know-everything complex is overstepping authority. That takes some negotiations, maybe from a third party in power. You might even request help from an outside source. Fix it once and you may make future confrontations unnecessary.
So here are the points of this post:
- If other financial marketers are already doing something, it’s highly likely the idea is compliant with the regulations.
- Set up a situation where you can counter a compliance person when you feel your way is right.
- An interpretation of the rules is just that: an interpretation. You want to comply with regulations, not follow one individual’s interpretations of the rules.
- Don’t be fearful or intimidated. You won’t do your job properly.
- Ask for outside help if needed. (We always offer help to our banking clients.)
I know this is a volatile issue. If you can add any helpful suggestions, I invite you to do so in the comments section below.
Here’s the link to The Financial Brand article, Direct Marketing Clinic: Chase Mailer Pros & Cons, Tips & Tricks.
Let me say again, you should have an Idea File.