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To be successful, financial affiliate program leaders face unique challenges. Ensuring partners deliver accurate and approved content is essential to satisfying customers – and the extensive laws and regulations governing the financial services industry. Financial services companies and fintech start-ups need robust compliance programs to identify and empower them to quickly and efficiently mitigate problems.

New Compliance Challenges in 2022

Accuracy and timeliness are essential elements of an effective compliance effort. Before 2022, changes in interest rates and market conditions had been infrequent, so compliance issues arose at a relatively moderate pace. But with recent interest rate volatility, the introduction of new financial models like BNPL, and the changing economic conditions, ensuring robust protection has gotten more complicated. As the affiliate solution for more than 50 leading financial services companies and fintechs, Rakuten Advertising occupies a unique position in the industry. Our significant program footprint gives us strong visibility into these challenges. In recent months, our sales and leadership teams have spoken to the leaders of many financial institutions concerned that their current affiliate networks and compliance solutions can’t cope in this volatile environment. These executives often ask what we think are the most critical considerations for robust compliance. Here are our thoughts on the five most important concepts for ensuring outstanding compliance.

Choose Finance-Specific Compliance Solutions

The financial services industry has unique compliance needs – requirements are fundamentally different from other verticals. To ensure adequate detection, mitigation, and protection, you need software and teams specifically focused on the financial services industry. At Rakuten, we decided several years ago that third-party, “generalist” compliance tools could not deliver the level of protection we wanted for our clients. We developed our financial services compliance suite and a dedicated finance compliance team to ensure we offer the best protection for our clients. This combination of assets delivers industry-leading detection and mitigation tools. Further, the insights obtained across all our client engagements ensure we offer state-of-the-art compliance solutions for every business. We also shape reporting and data access to the specific needs of each institution. Ensure you have purpose-built tools and expert teams to keep your programs and partners compliant.

Don’t Expect Software to Solve All Your Challenges

Software is a critical component of effective compliance management for financial services companies. But automation cannot replace human analysis and judgment. Beware of any solution that implies that a software platform alone can ensure compliance. ​Technology is indispensable for the thousands of repetitive checks required for an extensive finance affiliate program. A single financial services publisher might feature your products, services, and offers on hundreds (even thousands!) of pages. What would take a human team days to review takes moments for automated tools. But once anomalies are detected, expert analysts must determine what needs to happen to return a program to compliance. Some financial services brands hire and manage their own teams to drive compliance; to be sure, there are some excellent internal teams. But for most businesses, we recommend engaging with an agency or network that offers comprehensive compliance services. Doing compliance right is a specialized skill, and finding genuine experts is quite challenging. Rakuten and agencies with solid finance affiliate practices can attract the best talent because of the breadth and depth of brands, programs, and models our clients offer. Additionally, our experience across programs helps us spot and address issues faster.

Ensure Your Network Can Accommodate Compliance Scale

Many financial services companies have relatively limited numbers of partners. They may have always worked with a few dozen publishers focused explicitly on financial information. These publishers usually have strong track records ensuring that programs and campaigns get and stay compliant. When issues are identified, they fix them quickly. ​But what about when you want to grow your program through new partnerships? Especially new partnerships like content, social, or influencers? Most financial services affiliate leaders are under pressure to drive more volume. Expanding your partner footprint can help drive growth at every stage of the buying journey – but these would-be partners are generally less well-versed in the intricacies of financial services compliance. More partners opens the door to more potential errors. ​Make sure your compliance solution and team are prepared to accommodate a significant increase in scale. Highly experienced teams can anticipate issues before they arise and know to keep even closer tabs on new “non-endemic” partners – especially during the launch phases of new partnerships and campaigns. If you suspect that your compliance solution isn’t robust, be VERY careful about scaling with new partners. One of the most telling signs of problems is if it takes many days before they identify problems. Slow issue detection risks your business, and delays may get longer as you try to add new partners.

Leverage Tools and Processes Partners Prefer

Partners know that compliance is essential for their value proposition. Partners prefer to work with advertisers that use industry-standard tools they already know. When your program employs tools that many other advertisers use, it’s easier for those publishers to get and stay compliant, detect anomalies warranting action, communicate with program managers, and return to a compliant state. ​For example, because Rakuten works with dozens of financial brands, top finance partners are already very adept at using our tools and act quickly when we alert them to problems. Some publishers have designed their compliance efforts around our tools because we have a large share of the financial services market. Further, partners respond quickly to our team because they know we are just as interested in their success as our clients. ​Ask your affiliate network or platform how many US-based financial services clients they serve so you have a richer understanding of their place in the market. Supporting more clients means the team has more experience and likely better tools.

Assume Positive Partner Intent

In our considerable experience, we have learned that when compliance issues arise, they are rarely deliberate violations. The compliance challenge is different from paid search monitoring. Compliance is primarily concerned with errors and omissions; in contrast, search monitoring focuses more on detecting and responding to bad actors. ​Don’t sour relationships with reputable partners out of the misconception that your partners are trying to cheat or commit fraud. After all, financial services partners recognize that they cannot work with reputable financial services companies without strict adherence to compliance. The best compliance solutions and teams understand that everyone’s interest is in identifying and mitigating issues quickly and comprehensively. ​If your solution provider presents itself primarily as a police force against bad actors, recognize that they don’t understand the primary role of a compliance solution and team.

Want Help Improving Your Compliance?

Compliance is always a complex task – even more so in today’s environment. If you’d like a specific assessment or have questions or concerns about your current compliance, our team would be happy to help. Whether or not you want to change affiliate platforms or providers, contact us, and we’ll gladly share our insights. We also offer valuable research and insights on our website. Our recent Financial Affiliate and Consumer Trends report provides important insights about consumer interests and offers and is available for immediate download without cost.