For regulated Marketing teams, the compliance approvals process is a necessary part of producing financial promotions.
That doesn’t stop it becoming a frustration at times. It has the potential to slow down your production and create work via repeated reviews and edits.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though.
How can you optimise your sign-off process?
How can you speed your approvals without increasing your risk of regulatory compliance breaches?
Here we share 6 proven tactics that can help you improve your compliance approvals process.
1. Set up a clear process
An unclear or chaotic review process will negatively impact your efficiency, raise your blood pressure, and decrease your chances of getting material signed off when you need to.
Having clear, well-communicated steps to follow will make everyone’s life easier. Everybody involved needs to know what their role and expectations are. What do they need to review, and when do they need to feed back? How should feedback be delivered?
2. Make sure you have the right reviewers
Are too many people involved in your approvals process? It’s a common problem. Sign-offs can take far too long if everyone is given an opportunity to comment. Involving additional people can be a form of compliance ‘insurance’. Doing this with the aim of reducing the potential for a regulatory breach might sound like a sound idea – but can seriously slow you down.
Work out who really needs to be involved and don’t be tempted to extend the list ‘just in case’ someone else needs to see the document.
3. Make it clear how feedback should be given
How do you want people to feed back their comments and edits? The way feedback is received can have a huge impact on how easy it is for you to spot and respond to them all.
Asking everyone to use the ‘track changes’ feature in Word and sticky notes for PDFs can make edits in these programmes pretty easy to identify and deal with.
But for other marketing channels, it’s not so simple. How do you feed back comments, for example, on a test website? What process do you have for reviewing and approving emails, social media posts or other digital content?
Many regulated firms are turning to automation to help here. Introducing an element of marketing automation can enable different teams – and teams working across locations to review, mark up and sign off documents online in real time.
This can help with version control, minimising duplication and rework. Edits are clear for everyone involved to see and comment on – cutting out contradictory changes. Versions, changes and approvals are documented and a compliant audit trail created.
The best solutions will enable reviews of web content, social media posts and other digital marketing, as well as traditional printed materials.
4. Make providing feedback easy
The easier you make it for people to feed back, the more likely you are to deliver on your deadlines.
As above, introducing an element of automation can really help here. An intuitive system that makes edits and comments simple to make will encourage prompt and comprehensive feedback. When it’s quick and easy for multiple reviewers to make edits simultaneously, you will speed your review process as well as making it more robust.
5. Minimise the number of reviews needed
Endless rounds of reviews take up a huge amount of time and energy. Revisiting documents not only delays publication, but can lead to errors creeping in as numerous people have their say.
Time and accuracy are of the essence when you’re producing financial promotions. You can speed things up and reduce the chance of compliance breaches by minimising the number of reviews needed. As a happy side-effect, you’ll also reduce the amount of time you waste on admin!
Work with your Compliance team to understand what is acceptable, so you and your team can write ‘right first time’ content. Our tips on how to produce quality content in less time have some good advice on getting compliant content to market faster.
6. Build in an audit trail
If you’re FCA-regulated, you don’t just need to produce compliant materials. The regulator’s financial promotion rules state that you also have to evidence their review and approvals processes.
Your audit trail needs to capture the various versions of a document, along with reviewers’ comments, the way they have been dealt with, and the final, signed-off version. A manual process for compliance approvals can too easily make this record-keeping labour-intensive and susceptible to human error.
A process that can automatically captures this audit trail can save you a lot of work and reduce your risk of regulatory breaches.
Take steps towards a more efficient approvals process
Follow this advice, and you will be on your way to developing a more efficient and effective approvals process. Reduce stress, save time and improve regulatory compliance.
To read more about best practice financial promotions and make sure you’ve covered everything when producing them, you can download a copy of our Financial Promotions Checklist for Marketing.