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Financial services companies are underserved by affiliate marketing platforms. Here’s how we’re fixing it at Fintel Connect

  • Last Updated: May 28, 2024

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Conventional approaches to affiliate marketing can be ineffective for long-term, sustainable growth in an industry as competitive and regulated as financial services. 

We know because we have 20 years of firsthand experience with partner marketing for companies in niche regulated industries, and just as competitive and regulated as financial services. These industries face a number of similar characteristics that require a more tailored approach to affiliate marketing. This includes complex customer onboarding (that’s not as simple as buying a pair of jeans), strict compliance requirements for how to market, changing customer behaviour, and evolving regulations.

We built our first affiliate marketing business in 2002 and chose to specialize in a niche to really make a difference. A deep dive allows you to become a part of the fabric — you understand the intricacies and how to create value. We wanted to avoid becoming a generalist solution to a niche vertical that required more. And the same goes for financial services.

When our expertise attracted an enterprise bank in Canada that wanted us to kickstart their affiliate marketing program, we immediately recognized familiar challenges:

  • Unique and complex technology of this bank’s legacy systems, making our tracking implementation more difficult. 
  • High customer acquisition costs, which meant finding ideal affiliates with high-quality customers would be key.
  • More difficulty in gaining consumer trust, as people’s financial decisions are very personal and come with more risk than other consumer decisions. It would therefore be crucial to have the right marketing strategy in place to earn a potential customer’s confidence in the face of wariness towards financial institutions.
  • High competition and low differentiation between financial services firms, which would make it difficult to attract the attention of the bank’s target audience and more important to get the messaging right to acquire the right customers.
  • Regulations enforce strict marketing guidelines, which meant ensuring third-party partners would also adhere to the requirements.

We knew that affiliate marketing, when done well, would be a valuable channel for financial brand growth, but only when you address these factors and not let them become barriers to scaling out performance. 

Exposure to this new vertical made us realize that the affiliate marketing space for financial services was truly lacking the tools and solutions to support its potential. We tried the reporting tools, networks, and platforms available and discovered they weren’t solving the unique challenges of financial services. We saw an opportunity. 

To serve our new client well, we’d need to understand the gaps of generalist marketing platforms and create highly specific solutions to address the friction points. This way, we could help start and scale affiliate marketing channels that work to acquire customers not just for our new client but for all financial services companies.  

This is how we built Fintel Connect.

In this article, we’ll cover:

If you’re a financial brand and want to grow or invest in affiliate marketing, Fintel Connect can help. Contact us today to learn more

How traditional affiliate platforms fail to serve financial services companies

We know traditional affiliate platforms can offer plenty of benefits at first glance: a large network of potential affiliates, attribution analytics, and software that can handle a fully scaled program. Because they meet these basic needs, most generalist platforms can bring results to financial services companies, especially to those with existing publisher relationships.

But we also know from experience that the devil is in the details. For many banks or fintechs, especially those new to the affiliate space, you don’t always know what you don’t know, which can often lead to missed opportunities, inflated costs, lack of innovation and of controls and oversight.

We quickly realized generalist platforms weren’t helping financial services firms fully reap the benefits of affiliate marketing, like gathering data on every step of the customer’s application process or collecting publisher feedback to know which product resonates with audiences. Without these advantages, scaling an affiliate channel and capturing greater market share within a highly competitive space becomes even more difficult. 

We saw generalist platforms failing to solve financial services affiliate marketing challenges in four major ways.

1. The scale at which generalist platforms operate makes it harder to get tailored strategic insight or support

Large generalist platforms that work across multiple industries don’t always offer quality support specific to a financial services firm’s needs. For example:

  • They likely won’t invest in getting to know your industry or your products. Their lack of expertise in financial services means they’re not the best representatives when pitching your product to publishers who may not understand the value of your commercial offer.
  • They most often don’t offer compliance monitoring or compliance support (or it’s very costly if they do). Most generalist platforms won’t offer you support for compliance monitoring, so your teams will have to review your affiliate marketing content to ensure publisher campaigns adhere to regulations.
  • They aren’t always equipped to advise you on the best strategy or help you shape effective campaigns. For example, you’ll want your affiliate team to be able to advise on market trends, adapt your strategy when your business priorities change (especially in a highly volatile rate market), and be able to provide tailored recommendations on ideal affiliate partners based on your goals and products.  
  • You may get stuck in a ticketing queue. Unless you’re a well-known brand, you won’t get timely, high-level service if you request support. As a relationship-based channel that’s highly regulated and constantly in flux, timely responses and resolutions of issues is key.

Without in-depth guidance, strategic advice, or support, you can risk spending more budget (and resources) and potentially miss valuable opportunities. This makes it costly and difficult to maximize affiliate marketing as a channel for your financial services brand.

2. They don’t have a vetted, finance-focused publisher network, which can lead to fraud and more time spent finding and vetting publishers yourself 

We noticed many generalist platforms don’t vet their publishers. A lack of reliable partners can lead to fraud and non-compliant marketing practices, risking your reputation, compliance violations and fines. This means you’ll need to vet and manage those relationships by yourself to ensure they’re legitimate. 

And because you have specific criteria as a financial services company, you’ll have to put in a lot more work, ensuring the publishers you choose meet your marketing and compliance standards. Unless you’re a large financial brand that’s well-known, you may not get the support you need with helping find the right affiliates for your products. 

These platforms may not even categorize their publishers by specific financial product(s), meaning you’ll have to filter through thousands of publishers potentially unsuitable for your business. They also don’t always scrub their databases, which means if you’re reaching out to partners on your own, you may find outdated contact details or that these partners just won’t respond to you.

We’ve also seen that many financial services brands want to work with top publishers, like NerdWallet and Forbes. When your team doesn’t have direct relationships with these publishers, it will be difficult for you to get your foot in the door. And if you’re a smaller financial brand, it can be challenging to get the attention of these sites without someone who can help make an introduction. 

These limitations make it more difficult to connect with the right publishers and expand your audience reach.

3. They lack industry specific features, which may prevent your affiliate program from efficiently growing

Non-specialized platforms won’t speak your language or cater to a customer journey that isn’t as linear as other industries, like retail and e-commerce. 

When working to find ideal publishers, you’ll want finance-specific filters to understand whether a publisher is a good fit to promote your product. For example, do they cater to a more sub-prime audience or a small business audience? Generalist platforms may lack the right customer characteristics to segment your campaigns and achieve more effective targeting (e.g., does the publisher’s audience sit in the right income range to purchase your product). If an affiliate marketing agency doesn’t offer customer-specific segmentation, it’s difficult to optimize your campaigns. 

Some of these platforms won’t always be able to provide strategic guidance on how to  integrate with your account-opening, loan-origination, or CRM systems. This is critical to effectively run affiliate campaigns on a results basis. More often than not, they’ll track using pixels, which can pose challenges for tracking and properly attributing metrics like account value over time back to campaigns.

Then there’s the lack of tools specific to financial services marketing compliance that can prevent you from growing your program effectively. Some generalist platforms may not support compliance monitoring at all. Others may provide PR tools, which crawl the web for mentions of your company, without evaluating for potential content compliance infringements based on industry regulatory standards. This means your marketing team will have to sift through thousands of data points manually, trying to catch and fix infringements before the regulators do. This can be hard enough for enterprise financial institutions, but can be even more resource intensive for small financial services firms, like credit unions, or for Banking as a Service (BaaS) providers that need to ensure compliance across several fintech partners.  

A generalist’s lack of industry relevant tools could cause you to miss out on the best opportunities, whether that’s crafting optimal campaign strategies or scaling effectively. 

4. They lack in-depth publisher relationships, which means you miss partner insights about your audience

While large multi-vertical affiliate platforms will have vast networks with the top publishers in them, they may not invest the energy to understand how to achieve the most value out of these partnerships. 

You may miss out on valuable qualitative and quantitative insights about your target audiences, product knowledge, and the state of the financial services market that you won’t get from a generalist approach. Only regular communication with publishers will reveal these insights, such as a deeper understanding of your audience’s appetite

For example, a strong relationship with a publisher could help you know which type of marketing campaign will work best with their audience, what kind of product information will better attract their interest, even the products their audience prefers. This type of transparency and information sharing is critical to financial services companies that want to grow their customer base through affiliate marketing.  

Essentially, the lack of in-depth relationships and direct access to publishers means you may miss opportunities to gain valuable insights, create efficiencies with product performance, and win market share.

How Fintel Connect helps financial services companies maximize the value of their affiliate marketing

When we looked at the current affiliate marketing options and discovered their shortcomings, we realized there was an opportunity to create a platform tailored to financial services companies that could address their specific friction points. We wanted to ensure financial firms could receive industry and audience insights, establish direct connections to financially savvy publishers, and monitor the customer journey so they had enough information to optimize their strategy and campaigns.  

Ultimately this serves both the financial brand, publishers in market, and end consumers with more easily evaluating and finding the right financial products for them. This has become our mission — help financial brands safely and cost-effectively partner with publishers and make it easier for consumers and businesses to find the products they need.

We decided to take a publisher-first approach in building a solution for this space. We knew if we could help publishers get access to quality financial products and give them full transparency and real-time insights, they’d be able to grow their reach and drive up performance. This would mean real value for all parties involved:

  • Customers would have an easier way to find products that are right for them.
  • Publishers could recommend quality products and receive compensation for it.
  • Financial services brands could get quality customers who are a good fit for their products (and on a results basis). 

Our approach paid off. We created an all-in-one affiliate marketing agency, network, platform and compliance tool that drives results for financial services companies across Canada and the US. 

Here’s how we’re solving the friction points and delivering on our mission.

1. Our financial services specialization means we act as a true marketing partner, bringing insight and innovation to your program

Any generalist platform can promote a high-interest savings account or a CD. But immersion in the financial industry means we understand the nuance, and how that affects your business and your products. 

Here’s how our specialization sets us apart from mainstream affiliate marketing solutions:

  • We connect you with a specialized team from the start. Every client gets personal, expert attention at Fintel Connect—a personal account manager as a day-to-day contact, an account director and a client services director. Our financial focus means we can offer both strategic advice on the campaign level, and drive innovation in your affiliate program because we know which way the market is moving. 
  • We make an effort to get to know your products inside and out to craft the best pitches to our publishers. For example, when your product doesn’t “neatly” fit into a category like a credit card or bank account, our team helps advocate for you and bridge the gap with publishers to help them identify the opportunities and see the value in partnering with you.
  • We help you with your compliance monitoring with a tool built for financial services. We built Fintel Check so you can spend less time and resources to maintain compliance in your publisher’s campaigns. With Fintel Check, you can set rules, automate your checks, and even create an automatic audit trail.
  • We answer your calls and emails. We take every request seriously, whether you need technical support or strategic advice — and that goes for you and your publisher partners. We also use your feedback to constantly innovate, adding new features and tools and optimizing existing ones.   

The Fintel Connect team provides a unique and professional level of service for RBC’s Affiliate Marketing needs. The team is creating impactful programs that are infused by industry-specific insights, a strong understanding & passion for our business and powered by highly strategic thinking. — Armin Huska, RBC Global Head of Media & Agency Management

One example of how our strategic partnership goes beyond standard affiliate program support happened during COVID-19. Banks had suddenly cut ad spending, which threatened to erode publisher relationships. At Fintel Connect, we helped bridge this moment by managing publisher expectations. So when the banks decided to promote products again, they did so on a solid foundation built on trust and transparency. 

Together with our strong connections to our curated network and our staff’s industry expertise, you’ll have qualitative insights and strategic support for crafting campaigns that will connect with the right audience at the right moment.

2. Our curated publisher network means you’ll save time finding legitimate publishers who know how to promote financial brands

An important part of what makes Fintel Connect different from most affiliate marketing platforms is our affiliate network. We knew we had to build our business on solid relationships with publishers to ensure financial services firms could connect to the right audiences. 

We vet every publisher, require they pass our compliance checks, and make sure they’re a good fit for financial services companies before they can become a part of our network. This means you can connect with thousands of reliable and compliant publishers who understand financial services. 

While we started with a handful of publishers 12 years ago, today you’ll find a wide range in our 5,000+ network, from publications and financial influencers to podcasters and bloggers. We are constantly expanding our network through a dedicated publisher team

Fintel Connect founding story - publisher list example

With Fintel Connect, you can search for publishers yourself or ask our expert staff to suggest the right partners and make the introductions. This means that, in addition to sites like NerdWallet or Bankrate, we can introduce you to a diverse set of partners you may not yet know about, allowing you to reach new audiences and increase your credibility more easily.

By partnering with a large publisher that Fintel onboarded, we saw our conversions through affiliate marketing increase MoM by 68% and 95% in the two months following the launch. — Micah Davis, Live Oak Bank Chief Marketing Officer

With Fintel Connect, you’ll save time in connecting with the right partners to expand your reach as you launch or scale your program. 

3. Our industry-specific software means you’ll have the right tools to optimize performance and get the transparency you need

We understand the tools you want as a financial services company and set up Fintel Connect to enable a better understanding of your affiliate data.

Affiliate marketing performance report on Fintel Connect

For example, you can see the quality of your funnel with Fintel Connect and get greater transparency. You’ll see which publishers are delivering high-value customers at a high rate because we can measure beyond conversions to real customer value over time.  

You can also group tracking, reporting and budgeting by financial product type. This simplifies the reporting, budget management and invoicing by department, which can be especially helpful for larger companies with diverse product portfolios

In addition to accessing our software to analyze campaign data, you can integrate our tracking directly into your preferred source of truth: a core system, account opening platform, database, or CRM. 

Fintel Connect provides white glove service to publishers and brands which is combined with their best in class modern affiliate dashboard for reporting, accounting, and seamlessly tracking conversions. We have worked with plenty of affiliate networks and Fintel Connect would always be our first choice. — Stephen Wyman, WeyMedia Founder and Co-CEO

You’ll also have flexible publisher commissions with Fintel Connect. For example, you can pay your publishers through a more cost-effective per-acquisition model, applicable at different stages of the sales funnel, whether viable lead, approved account, or funded loan.

Our built-in compliance tool, Fintel Check, will also enable you to automate your compliance monitoring. You can receive just the data points relevant to your campaigns, whether you’re an enterprise financial services firm, a community bank or a BaaS with hundreds of fintech partners to check. You can also create an audit trail with automated screenshots (you decide the frequency), saving you the resources needed to maintain compliance and your marketing team time they can better spend on optimizing campaign performance

Fintel Check report example

As a result, your company will find better opportunities for customer acquisition growth and brand awareness, and clearer ROI with less in-house effort. 

Want to know more about making affiliate channels work for financial institutions? Read: Affiliate Marketing for Financial Services: A Guide for Brands.

4. Our affiliate-first approach means you get valuable audience connections

Generalist approaches leave you to manage publisher relations alone. We built Fintel Connect to act as a bridge that allows the best information to get to financial brands, and the best financial brands to get to publishers. 

We pride ourselves on our publishers-first approach, which is also our biggest differentiator. We know it’s the publishers who have a pulse on the market better than anyone else. And when they have the insights and support they need to be successful, we know their audiences and therefore our clients will win, too.

We advocate for and champion your brand to publishers on your behalf from day one. And because we prioritize building long-lasting relationships, we have rapport with trusted, quality publishers and many we’ve been able to convert into the financial category. 

As a publisher, Finder.com is always looking for access to the biggest brands to promote on our site. With the team at Fintel, we’re able to access those partnerships as well as the support and analytics needed to scale our performance. — Cameron Millband, Sr Performance Manager at Finder.com

Our publishers share great depth and quality of feedback with us—this goes beyond what many bigger affiliate networks have. Publishers want to work with us closely because we are finding them opportunities and listening to their insights. Since they have a direct connection to their audiences, they know what works best and which features, products and services their following wants. 

All this means you have more audience information to optimize your strategy and campaigns. And you’ll craft a better foundation for fruitful publisher partnerships, even with sites like NerdWallet and Bankrate, without putting in additional time and marketing effort.

Read more about How Affiliate Partnerships Foster Trust and Credibility for Banking Customers 

How we guided Live Oak to work with 30+ partners in their first six months, to deliver 420% growth

While we have many success stories, our partnership with Live Oak Bank is one of the best examples of how we deliver results more effectively for financial services firms. 

Live Oak Bank is a digital-first bank for retail and small-business customers in the US. They came to Fintel Connect looking to improve growth via affiliate marketing, and to help them scale a channel they did not have the resources to run alone.

Fintel provided expert advice and worked with Live Oak to build their affiliate program with a focus on connecting with the right publishers. While Live Oak partnered with 30+ publishers in the first six months, our mission wasn’t just to bring a volume of opportunities. We also made sure the connections Live Oak made were truly providing ROI. 

Live Oak Bank review example - Fintel Connect

We conducted extensive data analysis and fine-tuned messaging, which resulted in lasting MoM growth through their affiliate channel. All while seeing 80% lower average direct acquisition spend for deposits through the affiliate channel.

In addition to great results, the team at Fintel acts as an extension of our marketing team, providing creative solutions and a consultative approach. – Micah Davis, Live Oak Bank Chief Marketing Officer 

To read more about how Live Oak Bank and Fintel Connect achieved these results, read our case study.

Choose Fintel Connect: an affiliate platform that works for financial services

We built Fintel Connect to help your financial services brand take full advantage of the affiliate marketing channel. This is true whether you have an affiliate program, are just starting out, or are trying to scale. 

Imagine having direct access to reliable publishers who understand your product and can connect you to high-quality audiences. Imagine having a team behind you who can help you create effective strategies and campaigns with compliant messaging. Imagine having audience insights to know how to optimize your campaigns and reach. 

Now imagine having all of this with less effort, more industry-specific software and the expert support you deserve. All of this is possible with Fintel Connect. 

Find out more about how we can help you grow as a financial services company—contact us today

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