How to write sales content your Compliance team will approve.
If you work in sales or business development for a financial services firm, you will be familiar with the need to get sales presentations and pitches approved by your Compliance team.
Often, this can be a time-consuming and labour-intensive process involving much to-ing and fro-ing, with various iterations of your presentations going back and forth to your compliance colleagues. The result: producing pitch documents and presentations can take far longer than it needs to, taking your time away from valuable business development.
The good news is that you can change this. By being aware of some of the things Compliance is looking for when it comes to writing presentations and proposals – and some of the things they’ll automatically reject – you can save yourself time and effort.
Here we look at a few of the traps that people fall into when writing sales literature for financial services – and how you can avoid them.
- 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 applies to your sales presentations too: make sure any claims you make can be evidenced. As well as relating to the words in your proposals, the guidelines also relate to images or charts that you include. Any graphs must be clear and accurate, and not present a misleading picture of performance.
- Is corporate information up to date?
Any corporate information you include in your presentations needs to be accurate. Is assets under management data up to date? Are any corporate statistics correct? There’s a temptation when producing sales materials to over-write previous presentations – but this can cause problems with the accuracy of the information included. Make sure you check – and update where necessary – any data that may have changed.
- 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 reject anything that is not suitable for the people who will read it. If you’re presenting to pension trustees, who may be lay-people, you will want to use different language than if you’re presenting to fund managers. And although material aimed at professionals can get away with using more technical language or jargon, a ‘plain English’ approach is always preferable where possible.
- 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. This is something Compliance teams will be very hot on, as it’s imperative that you get it right. You can make life easier by making sure you always include the appropriate disclaimer for the product or service you’re writing about.
- Don’t forget risk warnings
Like disclaimers, risk warnings are an essential part of any financial promotion – and this includes sales presentations. If your presentation 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 presentations first time.
- Make sure you’re informing, not advising
Any presentation or pitch document you produce needs to avoid giving (or sounding like it’s 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, or person you’re presenting to, 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.
- 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 or talking about them: working closely with your Compliance team will help you identify areas where your approach needs to be tailored to the product in question.
- Make sure you’re on brand
Another danger when re-using previous presentations or proposals is that your corporate branding has changed since the last presentation was written (or possibly wasn’t even correct in the first place!). Compliance (or Marketing) won’t be able to approve anything that’s off-brand, so make sure your corporate logo, colours and fonts are correct, and any imagery complies with brand guidelines.
- Remember that Sales and Compliance have shared goals
Compliance and sales teams need to appreciate each other’s aims. In essence, you have the same objective: to promote the firm in an effective way that meets regulatory requirements. By working collaboratively, you will achieve far more, much more quickly.
Hopefully, this has given you some pointers on how to make sure your sales presentations and proposals are compliance-ready. As a result, you will free up more time to focus on winning new business.
How can we help you?
LS Consultancy has wealth of experience in reviewing financial promotions and can do so on a one-off or on an on-going basis.
We are also skilled in reviewing and assessing your financial promotion procedures and can assist you to establish the necessary framework to help future compliance with regulatory requirements.
Remember: Not everything is black and white when it comes to Financial Promotions, and many of the rules are open to interpretation. If you are unsure how your activities fit within the rules, please contact us.