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Why are Marketing and Compliance like chalk and cheese?

Steve Coleman

If you work in Marketing for a regulated firm, you will be familiar with your firm’s Compliance team. And vice versa.  In fact, you’re both trying to achieve the same goal – compliant, effective marketing materials that promote your business while keeping on the right side of the FCA’s strict regulations.

So why does it sometimes feel as if you’re pulling in opposite directions? As if Marketing and Compliance are as different as chalk and cheese?


Partly, you could attribute this to the different personality types that are likely to be attracted to the compliance and marketing roles.  People who are methodical, risk-averse and focused on detail are likely to be attracted to the rigour and discipline of the compliance role.  Marketers, meanwhile, are characterised as creative, extravert and more focused on the big picture (excuse my generalisation!).

It’s perhaps not surprising that the two can approach the production of financial promotions from opposing perspectives. But what can marketing and compliance teams do to understand each other better, and make the financial promotions process an easier one?

1. Understand each other’s objectives

While marketing is tasked with raising awareness of the firm and its offerings and – ultimately – delivering leads that will drive sales, compliance is all about ensuring the business stays under the radar for all the right reasons. 

Optimistic messages about investment returns or claims about service that cannot be substantiated will not sit well with compliance teams, who need to ensure t’s are crossed and i’s dotted before financial promotions are approved.

On the other hand, clamping down on positive messaging to the extent that financial promotions do not achieve their aims will not go down well with marketing.

If both teams are able to view the financial promotions process from the other’s perspective, they will have a better chance of working together in harmony to produce a mutually satisfying end result. 

2. Don’t push it!

Compliance teams tend to see financial promotions when they are pretty much a ‘done deal’.  Marketing has drafted something…the business has (eventually!) signed it off – and then compliance takes a look.  It can then be very painful and time-consuming to have to go back round the loop of business review/approval if compliance makes significant changes.

Marketing teams can help themselves here. By ensuring the financial promotions you draft are in tune with what compliance teams will approve, you can save yourself the task of redrafting and recirculating. 

Don’t include over-exaggerated claims about products, or statements that can’t be proven. Remember to include your regulated statement. Make sure the language, particularly the use of jargon or technical terms, is appropriate for your audience. Spell out acronyms if they won’t be commonly used by your intended readership.

Having a good understanding of the requirements and the things that Compliance will push back on enables you to draft ‘right first time’ copy that’s more likely to meet with immediate sign off.

3. Work together from the start

As above, the Compliance team are often the last people to see a financial promotion.  In some ways this makes sense – they’re seeing the final version, rather than having to spend time reviewing various iterations of a document.

But in other ways, it’s not ideal. It can lead to Marketing having to re-visit sign off from the business, taking up fee-earners’ time and potentially incurring their annoyance. If a promotion is way off the mark in terms of regulatory compliance, it is much better to identify this early on, so that changes can be made before the business is asked to review.

For this reason, closer working between Compliance and Marketing teams can be invaluable. Run your ideas past Compliance at the earliest opportunity – if your approach is never going to work, you’ll find out before you’ve invested too much time and creative energy.

Making sure you’re on the right track early on in the project can save everyone’s time and help the financial promotion process run far more smoothly.

Follow these three steps, and you will see a step-change in the ease of getting financial promotions finalised and approved.  Marketers and Compliance professionals may seem to approach things from opposing perspectives, but this doesn’t mean they can’t meet in the middle from time to time.

For further help, download our free "Financial promotions checklist", which explains the key stages in financial promotions approval and production. 

You can download a copy of the guide here


 Financial promotions checklist

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