2 May 2023
High-risk language in your financial services marketing can lead to serious fines, and it happens more often than you think. In 2021, the FCA fined Lloyds Bank General Insurance Ltd. £90.7m for misleadingly using the term “competitive price” in their marketing.
As a marketing compliance platform, we detect misleading language risks in content and assets for 93% of clients. This includes superlative claims that can’t be substantiated, creating a false sense of urgency, and false representations (like unduly using the term “advisor”).
Avoiding potentially false, misleading, or deceptive advertising can be complex, especially since laws and regulations vary depending on your local regulator (FINRA in the US, FCA in the UK, ACCC in Australia, etc.). But a good place to start is recognizing specific language to avoid.
Here are seven high-risk words to evade in your financial marketing content.
Example: “Our team of financial advisors is the best at predicting market trends.”
When you use the term “best,” you’re claiming that you’re the top performer in a specific area of finance, which is a claim that can’t be substantiated. Even if you could prove it to be true, this bold assertion can raise legal issues because you have no idea whether your performance will be consistent in the future.
Customers could hold that language against you if you make a mistake in your area of excellence and are no longer the “best.” In fact, nearly 70%% of Red Marker clients class this word as high risk and our software has detected its use in more than 2,000 sentences in the last six months.
Example: “Give our financial analysts a call for a free consultation.”
The word “free” is enticing to potential customers, but you shouldn’t use it unless you’re sure your offer doesn’t ask for a customer’s money or time. Say your free consultation requires a potential customer to agree to a lengthy follow-up session or any other kind of stipulation. Your advertisement could be deemed misleading by your local self-regulatory organization.
This also goes for words that use “free” as a suffix, such as “risk-free.” You can’t guarantee that an investment won’t be risky.
Example: “Our team always acts with our client’s best interests in mind to ensure the highest returns possible.”
You can’t predict future performance, so you shouldn’t use these absolute terms to describe outcomes. If your organization takes a futures position that positively impacts 99% of your clients but negatively affects 1%. You’re no longer “always” acting in your clients’ best interests.
Example: “Our firm regularly returns the highest yield in the marketplace.”
These absolute terms set clear performance expectations—and if you fall short, you could end up in legal trouble. In this example, your statement is no longer true as soon as a higher yield occurs. You can qualify your marketing by saying “*as of today’s date,” but it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
If you were to have the evidence to substantiate this claim, that evidence would need to be included clearly in your marketing copy. But it’s better to avoid using these two words altogether.
Example: “We offer the fastest return on investment in the market with short-term investments like short-term government bond funds and money market funds.”
Leave out the word “fastest” to avoid making a promise that your investments will produce returns before all of your competitors.
Example: “Our clients enjoy the results of low-risk investments that show consistent growth over time.”
All investments come with some level of risk, so you shouldn’t mislead customers with these terms. There aren’t alternatives to “low-risk,” as it is generally true that you should not try to downplay the amount of risk involved in investing money.
Example: “We guarantee that our investment strategies are the boldest in the marketplace.”
This word is a concrete promise to your potential customers that you may not be able to keep. You can never guarantee anything, so strike this word from your marketing vocabulary.
Level Up Your Compliance Approval Process with Red Marker
Over 90% of our clients are concerned about incorrect disclaimers and high risk language. If these are identified in marketing assets, this can slow down legal approval, leading to rounds of amends and potentially delaying the launch of the asset. That’s where Red Marker comes in.
Red Marker uses custom-trained AI to ensure your marketing content is compliant with the rules of the governing bodies in the industries you operate within. Our software automatically identifies mistakes, omissions and high-risk language in marketing materials, so marketers can fix any issues before submitting the materials to legal for approval, mitigating rounds of feedback and review timelines.
Click here to contact us to book a 30-minute discovery call to walk through your current marketing compliance processes and needs.
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NOTE: This post isn’t a substitute for legal or regulatory advice; please seek legal counsel on compliance-related issues. Please refer to your legal and compliance experts for formal advice on high-risk language and alternatives relevant to your organization.