How to write marketing copy your Compliance team will approve

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If you work in marketing for a financial services firm, the chances are you have to write promotional copy. And potentially, much of this copy will not meet with the approval of your Compliance team.

This can be dispiriting. It also adds time to your campaign production, slowing down financial promotions sign off – and ultimately affecting your ability to get products and services to market quickly.

The good news is that you can change this. By being aware of some of the things Compliance is looking for – and some of the things they’ll automatically reject – when it comes to marketing copy, you can save yourself time and effort.

Here we look at a few of the traps that financial services marketers and copywriters fall into – and how you can avoid them.

1.  Make sure your claims are fair, clear and not misleading

Your Compliance team is there to make sure your financial promotions meet the requirements of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Making sure promotions and adverts are fair, clear and not misleading is one of the regulator’s key objectives, as explained on its website.

This means not making claims about your products that can’t be substantiated, or that might not be easily-understood by your audience, more of which below…

2.  Write for your audience

Making sure you write in a way that’s appropriate for your intended audience is also essential. Compliance teams are likely to push back on anything that is not suitable for the people you think will read it.

If you’re writing for a retail audience (in other words, the general public), you will want to make sure you avoid financial jargon or very technical terms that might be confusing. Something aimed at intermediaries or other finance professionals can afford to be a little bit more technical – though a ‘plain English’ approach is always preferable where possible. 

3.  Get your disclaimers right

Financial services firms usually have a wealth of disclaimers or disclosures relating to the products they are promoting. These attribute responsibility for the product to the correct area of the business, or the correct country, if a multi-jurisdictional product – and they need to be correct. (You can read more about disclaimers in our blog The disclaimer lottery – which one are you using).

This is something Compliance teams will be very hot on, as it’s imperative that you get it right. As a copywriter, you can make life easier by making sure you always include the appropriate disclaimer for the product or service you’re writing about. 

4.  Don't forget risk warnings

Like disclaimers, risk warnings are an essential part of a financial promotion. If your advert or brochure makes reference to past performance, you need to make it clear that this isn’t a prediction of future returns. Your firm may have a standard risk warning you have to use; include it and Compliance are more likely to approve your copy first time. 

5.  Make sure you're informing, not advising

Your financial promotions need to avoid giving (or sounding like they’re giving) financial advice – as this falls into a whole other category of compliance requirements. You can avoid this by making sure you talk in general terms about your product or service, rather than encouraging the reader to take a specific course of action. Always remember, you’re making them aware of its features and benefits, not directing them to do anything. 

6.  Understand the specific requirements for specific products

Because some financial products are very complicated and aimed at very specific markets, they need to be approached in a particularly careful way. You need to make sure you take this on board when writing copy: working closely with your Compliance team will help you identify areas where your approach needs to be tailored to the product in question.

7.  Understand copy requirements for different marketing channels (and make sure Compliance do too!)

While the FCA regards all marketing channels equally, as a marketer, you know that what works in print won’t necessarily be right for social media. Work with your Compliance team so they understand the limitations of Twitter and LinkedIn – lengthy descriptions won’t work here! If this means you need to avoid social media for some of your marketing promotions, so be it.

While Compliance teams need to appreciate Marketing requirements, marketers also need to understand Compliance’s aims. Working together to reach a mutually-acceptable decision is vital. 

8.  Remember that Marketing and Compliance have shared goals

This brings us to our last point. Marketing and Compliance have the same aim: to make sure the firm promotes itself in an effective way that meets regulatory requirements. By working collaboratively, you will achieve far more, much more quickly. (Our blog, Marketing and Compliance – Chalk and Cheese? has more tips on this; you can read it here.)

Building a strong working relationship between Marketing and Compliance is fundamental to getting financial promotions written and approved with minimal fuss, and getting your services to market as quickly as you can. 

Hopefully this has given you some pointers on how to make sure your financial copy is compliance-ready. If you want to read more tips, you can download our financial promotions checklist here. It has practical advice on how you can make sure your financial promotions meet the regulator’s requirements.

Nothing in this document should be treated as an authoritative statement of the law. Action should not be taken as a result of this document alone. We make no warranty and accept no responsibility for consequences arising from relying on this document.

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