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Marketing Compliance for Financial Services: How to Get It Right

  • Last Updated: February 21, 2024

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If you’re doing research on marketing compliance for financial services, it’s likely you’re in one of these two situations:

  1. You work for a financial institution (FI) and are looking for tools to better manage your marketing compliance.

  2. You work for a bank or a financial institution that offers Banking as a Service (BaaS) to multiple fintech partners and are looking for ways to monitor each partner’s marketing content to reduce risk and ensure you maintain strict regulatory compliance.

Although there are a lot of tools that help banks and financial institutions with brand monitoring and brand integrity, there aren’t many that focus primarily on content compliance – or ensuring content in campaigns remains compliant with financial regulations and legal requirements like UDAAP and TILA.

As a financial institution, your first priority is adhering to regulatory compliance, and yet most tools don’t have features that allow you to easily automate this type of monitoring. 

In this article, we’ll be covering:

Want to try our marketing content compliance tool specifically built for financial institutions and financial services teams? Book a demo now to see for yourself.

What are the challenges with marketing compliance for financial services?

In the financial services industry, marketing compliance is primarily about ensuring marketing practices and marketing content remain compliant and meet the regulatory requirements set by entities like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Producing or being associated with marketing content that isn’t compliant has serious consequences for financial institutions.

As you already know, getting an infringement notice from the regulator can negatively impact your reputation.

You may even have to pay a fine or penalty fee on a compliance infringement, which means you can expect increased scrutiny and more frequent reporting requirements from regulators in the future. 

Most financial institutions use a combination of a manual team and a software tool to manage marketing and advertising compliance, but each one of these solutions has its challenges.

A team manually reviews marketing content–which is labour, resource and time intensive 

This is likely the first step your financial institution has taken: reviewing digital marketing content manually.

Marketing interns or compliance analysts usually perform these compliance reviews, checking for the correct language, interest rates, pricing, and disclosures.

The benefit of doing this manually is that a person can discern very quickly what is and is not appropriate for the bank, and can more easily handle complex situations (e.g., determining if language is misleading).

The downside is that this is very repetitive work that is also highly labour, resource and time intensive. This means your reviews may happen less frequently, causing compliance issues to fall through the cracks. 

Also, if you’re a  BaaS bank partnering with fintechs, you’re going to have large manual workflows, which can be hard to scale, especially across multiple partners.

Use marketing tools–which are mostly built for PR and brand monitoring rather than compliance

The logical step to scale marketing compliance is to use a tool that helps with finding, aggregating and monitoring specific website pages.

There are different types of tools, but they usually fall into three buckets:

  1. Tools that crawl the web : they crawl the web looking for pages that mention your brand name or your fintech partner’s brand name.

  2. Tools that crawl post-logins: these are tools that monitor mentions on social media platforms like Facebook, Reddit and LinkedIn.

  3. Tools that crawl for specific websites: you input the URLs you want to monitor and the tool tells you if the language adheres to your rules.

Most marketing monitoring tools fall into the first two types, and therefore primarily focus on helping companies with brand monitoring, brand integrity, and public relations.

They’ll inform you of websites that are mentioning your brand or your products. Although these tools are great to ensure you have oversight over marketing efforts –they aren’t built specifically for financial services or BaaS providers.

This means that these tools are often tracking every single mention of your brand or fintech partner, which leads to thousands of data points and URLs for you to monitor.

But if your priority is ensuring compliance, you want a way to also easily evaluate whether that content is actually important to monitor and ensure it is correct.

PR and brand monitoring tools typically cannot perform the evaluation, which leads to a situation where you still need to hire a large team in order to manage all the data points the tool shares with you.

It makes it hard to focus on your main priority: ensuring the marketing content is compliant to avoid an infringement from the regulator and ensure you are  accurately informing consumers on your product.

And finally, since these tools were primarily built for large, blue-chip public companies, they also charge very high fees, which can be cost prohibitive if you are a BaaS bank with multiple fintech partners or if you are a small financial institution and just starting out.

Discover the top PerformLine competitors that can make your monitoring easier.

A better tool to manage your marketing content compliance: Fintel Check

The issues mentioned above are what led us to develop our own tool to help financial services companies and BaaS providers manage their marketing compliance: Fintel Check

At Fintel Connect, we’re an affiliate marketing agency, platform, network, and compliance tool in one. We specialize in helping financial services companies use the affiliate marketing channel to acquire customers.

Part of running a successful affiliate marketing campaign is ensuring your affiliate partners use the right language to describe your financial product(s).

 

This is where our tool Fintel Check comes in to not only help finservs monitor their affiliate partners but also aid finservs offering BaaS in monitoring their fintech partners’ marketing compliance.

We like to think about content compliance in two different ways: 

Hard content compliance: this is marketing content that includes interest rates, disclosures and disclaimers.

If your content uses the wrong language or omits certain information and a regulator notices, you can likely expect either a warning or a fine. This also goes for BaaS banks who are responsible for monitoring what their fintech partners are advertising.

As an example, if a fintech partner refers to themselves as a “bank” this would be a direct hard infringement against regulations. 

Soft content compliance: this is marketing language that could be considered misleading or create the wrong impression with prospective customers.

For example, if a piece of your marketing material uses words like “free” and “guaranteed” without also including the right disclaimers or qualifiers, it could be considered  misleading.

At the end of the day, the regulations exist to protect consumers and help hold financial institutions accountable and responsible for properly marketing and informing these audiences about their products.

This is why we often see the most critical element of compliance is ensuring you maintain hard content compliance.

Our tool Fintel Check tracks both hard and soft content, but it really hones in on how to not just monitor compliance issues, but also automate the evaluation process (i.e., determine if something is really an issue) and support you with more efficient remediation.

We go into more detail about how the tool works and what it can do for you below.

Your team has the flexibility to easily set an unlimited number of rules for what to monitor

Fintel Check is an AI-powered rules-based system. If you’re already running affiliate marketing campaigns through Fintel Connect, you’ll already have the URLs you’ll want to monitor in the system.

If you’re a BaaS provider, you’ll be able to easily upload the URLs of the websites you want to monitor. 

Then you can then set specific rules to tell the tool what content you want to monitor. Fintel Check will continuously monitor these webpages and take regular screenshots, which you can then use as an audit trail. 

Fintel Check allows you to monitor only the pages that matter to you, helping you ensure the language third parties and fintech partners use always remains compliant.

It saves your team a lot of the manual work involved in finding the URLs, capturing screenshots, and evaluating content against the rules.

For example, you may want it to report whenever there is an interest rate that is incorrect, or newer mentions of FDIC.

The tool can be set to regularly monitor for these rules, and, from your dashboard, you’ll be able to see at a glance which pages have and have not ‘failed’ your rules. 

compliance rule settings for financial services marketing

You can then reach out to the partner to adjust the language, if necessary.

For banks with fintech partners, you can also invite your partners to the Fintel Check dashboard so they can also see which pages are failing the rules.

This way they can proactively be involved in the process and update pages without requiring your team to regularly remind them

The Fintel Check dashboard will give you visibility on compliance issues to resolve

Marketing ompliance for financial services

Instead of having to sift through thousands of URLs from a PR tool to find the pages with hard content you want to monitor, you can input any public facing page that matters to you. You can track:

  • Your own website URL, to ensure there are no discrepancies in the messaging.
  • Third party publications like NerdWallet, to ensure their marketing material is compliant.
  • Fintech partner website URLs, to ensure they aren’t publishing misleading or incorrect information. 

Bonus: for financial brands using our affiliate platform, Fintel Check will run automatically, anywhere you have a tracking link placed (which means even identifying those sub-affiliates you may not necessarily be aware of).

Via the Fintel Check dashboard, you’ll be able to see at a glance which pages are failing or meet the rules you’ve set. 

Not only that, you can also quantify the potential impact of a failed rule. Say one fintech partner changes the interest rate on one of their product pages without your consent.

You’ll also see from the dashboard how much traffic, impressions and clicks this specific product page received. You can then gauge the potential impact in case a regulator has flagged it as a concern.

Your team will have everything they need for audits through automation

One of the most time-consuming parts of manual marketing compliance monitoring is taking the required screenshots and data logs to put together an audit trail.  

Fintel Check takes screenshots of the specific URLs as often as you tell it to. Once you set up the URL and rule, you can tell the tool how often you want it to take a screenshot of the page.

It’ll do this automatically and as regularly as you want. 

List of marketing compliance checks with screenshot example for financial services
You can see the screenshots next to each check, under “view image”

This allows you to put together a historical record and audit trail, which makes it very easy to export, and helps you build a case for compliance in case the regulator flags an infringement.

You’ll also get a changelog of everything that the fintech partner has adjusted on their website, which you can then use as an audit trail if you encounter any issues.

A real life example of how the right marketing compliance tool could have helped a financial institution

In July 2023, Jason Mikula, fintech expert, wrote about Maza’s failure to use compliant language on its website.

Maza is a fintech company in the US that helps undocumented immigrants apply for US individual tax ID numbers. Back in July, this is what the type of language on their website was:

Maza compliance example
Image: Screencap of Maza’s site as of 6/28/2023 (via Fintech Business Weekly)

In their home page, Maza described itself as a “banking service” and “banking platform”, but didn’t clarify that these services come from their banking partner Blue Ridge.

Throughout the website, they made repeated use of the Department of Treasury and IRS logo and language, as well as claiming an “IRS guarantee”.

They also make other misleading and potential false claims, such as “no hidden fees” and users can “open accounts in minutes”. 

As Jason explains in his newsletter, the website had clear compliance rule violations. 

The actual compliance risk here isn’t just for Maza, but for Blue Ridge, the banking partner, which is the chartered organisation responsible for complying with regulations.

With a tool like Fintel Check, Blue Ridge could have been able to identify these violations on the Maza website.

Within the Fintel Check tool, Blue Ridge could have created a rule that would fail if a page didn’t include the right disclosure.

When the rule fails, Blue Ridge would get a record in the Fintel reports and could immediately reach out to Maza and ask to include the right language in their content creation. 

Blue Ridge could have also used Fintel Check to set up rules that look for words like “IRS”, “Department of Treasury”, “hidden fees” and “open account in minutes” within the website.

Every time one of these phrases was mentioned, the tool could have flagged it, allowing the compliance team to take a look, assess the context, and reach out to Maza to fix it.

They could also have granted Maza access to Fintel Check, so the Maza team could be involved in more proactively managing the content on their site.

The situation with Maza and Blue Ridge is a clear example of how a bank could use Fintel Check to be proactive and stay on top of potential content compliance issues.

Marketing compliance in financial services: use a tool that prioritizes compliance

In financial services, the priority with marketing content is to remain compliant and avoid a regulatory infringement.

This takes priority over brand integrity and PR monitoring. And yet, most marketing compliance tools focus on the latter rather than the former. 

At Fintel Connect, after years of working with financial institutions on their marketing efforts, we’ve put together a tool that helps financial organizations more efficiently manage the monitoring and maintenance of their marketing content, saving the team time and allowing them to be proactive with compliance. 

Keen to try Fintel Check? Reach out to us now to get started.

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