Marketing and Compliance

Today I leave Omaha, NE after attending the Insurance Advertising Compliance Association (IAdCA) Conference. I like this conference because of its smaller size and the way marketing and compliance folks come together and really engage with each other on advertising compliance issues. This year I presented twice on preparing for and handling market conduct exams. Interestingly, the two offered very different discussions. It would have been great to have all the participants in one session because I think each would have benefited from the discussions held in the other session. But that is not what was….

In the second session we had a discussion about how much marketing should be responsible for generating compliant pieces out of the gate, which was quite interesting. A couple of companies were moving some of that function out of compliance and putting it in marketing. I am a big believer in the compliance department’s obligation to not just say no, but to provide solutions…to provide a road map illustrating how marketing can both stay on-sides with the applicable regulations, but still make the point they want to make. In order to do that, compliance needs to know what marketing really wants to say, what they want the message to be, what they would say if they could say anything they want to. Compliance is the department that has the expertise to show them how to do that within the regulatory framework. But if marketing is creating pieces already trying to step into compliance’s head, they won’t do what they do best. And they won’t do compliance’s job well either because that is not what they are trained for and best at. Even if compliance is still reviewing the pieces, I think that approach does two things; it makes marketing less effective and it makes compliance less effective.

Instead, I recommend letting marketing do what they do best; use their creative energies to sell insurance products. But then compliance needs to do what it can do better than anyone - review those pieces carefully and make clear suggestions about how the piece can be changed, if necessary, so that the message stays clear but the piece does not bump up against unfair trade practices. It was discussed here at the conference several times, and I could not agree more, that marketing is generally open (not necessarily happy….but open) to making changes when there is a clear statement of what the regulatory issue is and suggestions made regarding alternatives.

When I work with companies on organizational and structural issues related to their compliance departments, I think it is important to stress to the compliance staff that their job is to provide the way, or better yet alternative ways, to accomplish the corporate goal. It is hard - and tiring - to be seen as the department that just says “no” and is the obstructionist. But if a compliance department is strong and is trained and empowered to provide real solutions, not only does their job become more rewarding, but now the company is getting the most value from their expertise in the regulation of insurance.

I don’t want you to be afraid to let marketing come up with the best pieces they can, using their talents as creative people. I want to see your compliance department be there, ready to work with marketing collaboratively to end up with a final product that both departments can feel proud of and confident that it won’t lead to market conduct problems. Let each department play to its strengths and a better product will result!