Compliance Letters as a Marketing Tool

By Hillary Kelbick

Q: When is a compliance letter a brand-building opportunity?

A: Always. Delivering the right kind of message can be a win-win for your customers and your brand.

As a bank marketer, you’ve probably noticed that compliance-related assignments have taken up a fair share of your bandwidth in recent years. GLB, FCRA, Dodd-Frank, Durbin, AML/BSA, CFPB…these and other regulatory updates have all necessitated some degree of customer care and handholding.

On the surface, projects like these may seem totally unrelated to traditional bank marketing—or to your bank’s image. But don’t underestimate the importance of these communications, or the opportunity they present to help make your bank stand out from the crowd. How you handle a regulatory mailing can reveal quite a lot about your organization. Here are some thoughts to consider when you’re facing your next compliance communications challenge.

Handle it promptly.

First, resist the strong temptation to backburner this kind of assignment in favor of other, more high-profile initiatives (i.e., the ones that produce immediate revenue). Remember, many of your customers have multiple banking relationships—and the more affluent the customer, the more likely other banks are somewhere in the picture, communicating the same regulatory changes to that household. Do you want to be the bank that leads the way in alerting your clients to an industry-wide compliance change? Or do you want to be the straggler?

Explain it simply.

When your bank receives new compliance guidance, approved language is often handed to you straight from your legal team. The easy solution is to write a cover letter and forward the language on to the client. After all, you’ve got other priorities to focus on, right?

Actually, no. Accept the responsibility to make this message as clear and comprehensible as you can, and you will win customers’ gratitude every time. If you can explain a procedural change with an infographic instead of jargon, do it. And if your legal staff is uncomfortable with a simplified explanation, you may be able to include precise legal language on the reverse side, or a separate insert—and direct customers there for details.

Organize it clearly.

When specific disclosures need to be provided, take the extra step of organizing materials for customers. Segment and clearly label all documents that customers should retain with their banking records. If customers need to supply missing or incomplete information, offer alternative means to respond and pre-fill forms where possible. When a change in regulations requires customers to alter their banking habits, suggest solutions and offer individualized assistance.

Take the customer’s side.

Compliance announcements frequently involve change, and customers typically don’t like change. That’s why you need to go the extra mile and explain in positive terms what this update entails and why it’s in the best interest of your customers.

Create talking points for your front-line representatives and make certain they can handle all questions authoritatively. Organize outbound calling to high-value, high-impact customers. If you’ve got the resources to do so, create a landing page with a brief, engaging video explaining changes, choices, actions required, etc.

Above all, let your brand shine through.

Make sure everyone knows that regulatory compliance is an issue your bank takes seriously and that the integrity and security of customer relationships are your highest priorities. You’ll start turning legally mandated announcements into brand-building opportunities by creating a greater sense of trust and connection with your customers.

Hillary Kelbick is president and CEO of MKP communications inc., a New York based agency specializing in financial services marketing and merger communications. Email: [email protected].