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New research shows why financial services marketing is broken: compliance and marketing are perpetually at odds

  • Eight out of ten senior legal and compliance professionals in financial services (84%) see their relationship with marketing as adversarial
  • 80% think marketing just wants someone else to take the blame when their content is challenged externally
  • Nearly three-quarters of marketers think that the CMO, rather than the head of compliance, would be held accountable if their materials were challenged by regulators
  • 89% of compliance specialists agree productive conversations about how to make things happen are needed.

New research has highlighted the continuing tensions between the legal/compliance and marketing teams in the financial services sector. Eight out of ten (84%) senior legal and compliance professionals in the UK, US and Australia admit that they see their relationship with marketing as adversarial and ‘us and them’, while almost as many (82%) think marketing doesn’t actually understand why their output has to abide by so many complex compliance rules. In the US, almost one in four (24%) feel the marketing team doesn’t understand what compliance and legal are trying to achieve, while 82% have often heard their marketing teams say compliance rules are ‘over the top’.

Even more concerning, globally, 80% of compliance and legal specialists feel marketing just wants someone else to take the blame when their content is challenged externally.

A major element is the detail of the review process: 84% of compliance professionals think that it would be much easier to complete reviews if they didn’t have to check the basics repeatedly. More than a quarter (28%) also say that marketers seek approval too late in the creative process, while 21% believe there are too many steps to go through.

When it comes to the other side of the fence, the research suggests confusion or disagreement over how the compliance process works: 82% of US marketers believe the head of marketing/CMO decides how the review process for marketing materials is conducted – and 75% think that the CMO, would be held accountable if marketing materials were challenged by the regulators.

A worrying 81% of financial services marketers globally, actually believe compliance and/or legal is ‘in the way of getting their job done’.

The study was commissioned by software company Red Marker. It surveyed 550 senior legal, compliance and marketing specialists across the UK, US and Australia, working in organizations across the financial services, retail banking and insurance sectors with 5,000+ employees.

Mark Wood, COO at Red Marker comments: “The tension between marketing and compliance across the financial services sector illustrates that the delicate balance between creativity and compliance can easily become adversarial.

“The marketing compliance process has traditionally been under-analyzed and there has been a lack of optimization, with a certain ‘we have a process’ complacency. Many organizations have built quick-fix solutions or outsourced this process, but new technology means there’s no longer an excuse for inefficiency and apathy.

“With organizations identified as having misled customers receiving publicised penalties, there’s nothing more important than ensuring the marketing compliance process is watertight. That starts at the most basic level with robust communication and openness between teams.”

Although the research didn’t identify a single factor that would drastically improve the compliance review process, the change that many compliance professionals said they’d like to see was using technology to create a more efficient process with less manual handling.

One such area is artificial intelligence (AI) – and 93% of compliance and legal personnel think an AI-based tool that can intelligently scan and highlight marketing content for compliance and brand risks would support a more effective review process within their organization.

Marketing, legal and compliance (35% of all US respondents agree) expect AI-based solutions to provide automated checking of standard marketing content – although unsurprisingly, the main concern for these same teams (32% agree) is identifying what happens and who would be accountable if an AI tool missed a risk.

It also found that common ground exists and is hugely important: globally, the majority of legal/compliance teams (89% agree) and marketers (81% agree) think that the ideal review process would have the minimum amount of human subjectivity.

Furthermore, 87% of compliance/legal specialists believe that successfully managing the risk of marketing is a team effort and even more (89%) feel that productive conversations about how to make things happen are needed.

Wood adds: “One of the key barriers between these teams is the stereotypes: marketers seeing compliance as being deliberately hindering, versus compliance teams seeing marketers as too ‘gung-ho’.

“Auditors would expect to see a three line of defence (3LoD) model in place for day-to-day risk management, including management of compliance risk, but how cohesive is the 3LoD model with all this conflict?

“Giving marketing teams the training and tools to consider compliance issues early and often could pave the way towards a more symbiotic partnership.

“However, cooperation is paramount and both sides agree that they need to work together more efficiently to improve the business and help it meet its overall goals. That means having constructive conversations – and it could also mean using AI-driven technology to enhance processes by focusing on automation and standardization.”



For further information contact:

Rose Haanen – Marketing Director

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