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Episode 30: Benefits of Automating Your Marketing Compliance Processes

In this COMPLY Podcast episode, I sat down with our SVP of Sales here at PerformLine, John Zanzarella, to discuss the Benefits of Automating your Marketing Compliance Processes.

Episode Description

In this COMPLY Podcast episode, I sat down with our SVP of Sales here at PerformLine, John Zanzarella, to discuss the Benefits of Automating your Marketing Compliance Processes. 

Listen as John and I discuss:

  • Some of the key concerns that keep marketing compliance professionals up at night
  • The specific industry trends and regulatory changes that have heightened these concerns in recent times
  • How automation can play a role in addressing these compliance challenges
  • Some real-world success stories of organizations that have benefited from automating their marketing compliance processes

Show Notes:

Subscribe to COMPLY: The Marketing Compliance Podcast

About COMPLY: The Marketing Compliance Podcast

The state of marketing compliance and regulation is evolving faster than ever, especially for those in the consumer finance space. On the COMPLY podcast, we sit down with the biggest names in marketing, compliance, regulations, and innovation as they share their playbooks to help you take your compliance practice to the next level. 

Episode Transcript:

Ashley:
Hey there, COMPLY Podcast listeners, and welcome to this week’s episode. This week I sat down with our SVP of Sales here at PerformLine, John Zanzarella, to discuss the benefits of automating your marketing compliance processes. Listen, as John and I discussed some of the key concerns that keep marketing compliance professionals up at night, the specific industry trends and regulatory changes that have heightened these concerns in recent times, how automation can play a role in addressing these compliance challenges and some real-world success stories of organizations that have benefited from automating their marketing compliance processes. As always, thanks for listening, and enjoy. Welcome, John, to the Comply podcast. We are so happy to have you.

John:
Hey, AC. It is so good to be here.

Ashley:
We have been, a long time coming, wanting John to come on the podcast, so I am so excited he could join us today for our topic on the benefits of automating your marketing compliance processes. John, why don’t you start just telling us a little bit about yourself, your background, and your current role at PerformLine?

John:
Cool. Yeah, you know, professionally, a little bit of a unique background. I started my career in the legal world. I worked in a marketing and business development capacity for an AM Law 50 company, a big organization, with about a thousand attorneys. And, I did that for four years. I really enjoyed it gave me a real introduction to the professional world, but I think I always wanted to do something more entrepreneurial. I grew up in a family of small business owners, in 2012, I was the fifth employee at a media company. Ended up kind of growing my responsibility there. By the end of it, I was a partner, really running the business alongside the founder, and that was really cool. We had a lot of bumps in the road, as I think like early entrepreneurs do. It was both of our first times running a business, but we learned a ton, and we really enjoyed the time that we spent. The business was really focusing on social media marketing. In 2017, through kind of a series of connections, our business was acquired by PerformLine. That was really my first introduction to the SaaS world, first introduction to the compliance world. And, I have been here coming up on six years now, and it has been a really fun journey. The company has more than tripled in size since I got here, and I am as excited about the next six years as I have been about the last six.

Ashley:
Yeah, it is definitely an exciting time to be here. Now you are an expert at all things marketing compliance.

John:
I am getting there. I have definitely learned a ton. You know, when you kind of study and grow up in a sales and marketing space, compliance is the last thing on your mind. And in fact, a lot of the conversations we have with companies where we talk to the marketing team, they are not always thinking about compliance, but  , now we realize it is such a pivotal part of what businesses are doing. The compliance role has evolved so much, even in the six years that I have been here. It has been really fun to learn and to partner with that side of the business, and just see their impact across all organizations.

Ashley:
Absolutely. That is a perfect segue to my first question for you. Marketing compliance can be so complex, it is so evolving. What are some of the key issues or concerns that keep these marketing compliance professionals up at night that you hear about?

John:
Yeah, I think there is a bunch. It is definitely one of those roles where even when the workday ends, there is a lot to be thinking about. And, just to go back to when I started here, even in those six years, we have seen the role of the compliance professional evolve so much. There is so much more responsibility that they have taken on. I think historically, in some instances, it was viewed as kind of a back office role. Today we see chief Compliance Officers and Chief Risk Officers holding real leadership positions at companies having a direct line to the CEO, being involved in, at least publicly traded companies, earnings calls, and things like that. That is just not something I saw when I got to PerformLine. But, there is a lot that I think that has evolved that has made their jobs harder during that time.

John:
Two of the biggest ones are just there is not enough time in the day to do all the things that they are required to do. You think about monitoring, reporting, auditing, and working across different departments. Historically, compliance does not have a huge budget. Because of that, they have gotten really good compliance teams have gotten really good at creating processes and procedures, many of which are manual, that they distribute across various parts of their organization. Really, that can be challenging, especially as the regulatory landscape evolves, especially as there are more ways to communicate and market your products. Like when I got to PerformLine, I think we launched our social media monitoring tool in 2018, and it was just covering Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And that is what most compliance professionals had to worry about back then.

John:
In the five years since then, we have seen, you know, YouTube, Reddit, LinkedIn, most recently, TikTok, and there is a whole slew of other channels that companies are starting to use to market their products that compliance professionals need to learn how to monitor, learn how to create some guardrails around those things. And that in of itself can be challenging. And then, the second thing that we hear from a lot of the companies we talk to as far as what keeps them up a lot at night is just fear of the unknown. I will give you an example of that, that we hear a bunch of now. It is like when you work at a company, it is not uncommon to be on your company website, be looking at marketing materials for your company online. And because of many of the retargeting that these companies have, you then get served advertisements for both your business and competitors.

John:
Sometimes, we have a lot of compliance professionals who will tell us, “Hey, we saw an advertisement marketing our company, marketing our products that we did not approve. We did not know the publisher of that content. We did not know how to get in touch with them when we reached out to our marketing team. They did not have a direct relationship with them. And if we are being served those ads and we are seeing them, what about the general consumer? I am sure there is more out there, I am sure they are seeing them as well.” And, that is one of those things that just, it does make you feel a little uneasy if your job is to really monitor how your brand is being represented online, how your products are being marketed, and you do not even know all the places where that is occurring.

Ashley:
Absolutely. And we will talk about in just a minute how maybe automating some of that monitoring is super helpful. But before we jump to that, are there any specific industry trends or regulatory changes that have heightened some of these two buckets that you talked about in recent times?

John:
Sure. Yeah. I mean, I am by no means a regulatory expert. I subscribe to PerformLine’s content, which I think is really good at educating me on what is going on in the regulatory landscape. But, that is probably the first one. Really starting with the current administration, the new leadership at the CFPB, just the energy changed when it came to consumer compliance and really working with consumer finance companies to make sure they are being compliant. I do not know that the data supports that we have seen a lot more enforcement, but there is certainly been a lot more talk about enforcement. We are seeing state regulators get much more involved, so that adds an additional level of complexity. We are seeing the CFPB start to change some of the rules as they go with what is within their monitoring purview.

John:
Now they are looking at sort of non-bank fintechs. They are looking at banks sometimes that are under the $10 billion in assets that, historically, they have been focusing on. And then there is, you know, the FTC and all of the other regulators, and even most recently this year, just seeing the government getting involved within banking with SVB and some of those other companies, that is changing quite a bit. And, unfortunately, it is not coming always with the most clearest guidelines. A lot of times, it is the guidelines that are coming down the road. There are hints as to what they might be, but it is not really a clear cut for a company to look at and say, Hey, here’s what we have to do to adhere to them. So I think that’s one challenge. From an economic standpoint, right? It has been a weird few years after kind of the pandemic and then the boom of 2021. We have seen a lot of companies pulling back over the last 18 months to two years where they are doing layoffs, unfortunately, and it is impacting some of the size of these teams.

John:
When you look at the compliance professional, now they are being asked to do more with less, more complex regulations, more different areas they need to monitor from a marketing perspective, but less headcount than they had historically. And again, when you have manual processes, and I know we will talk about automation, it becomes really challenging to do more with less. You do not have more to give. It is like you only have a certain amount of time in the day. And then the last one I will just mention is just, and this again is newer over the 18 months, last 18 months, but frequent rate changes. We have had nearly a dozen rate changes in the last 18 months, and companies who are marketing credit card products, personal loan products, we have heard these crazy stories about them having to scramble every time there is a rate change just to make sure that all of their partners and their owned and operated websites are up to date with the most recent information in a timeframe that, again, protects the consumer.

John:
So that you are not logging on to look at a credit card offer the day after a rate change, and you are being served outdated information, and then you go to apply for it, and the rates are different than what you had seen marketed. And then that is frustrating to any consumer. So then you go to the CFPB, and you file a complaint, and that ends up in a pool of other complaints that then tip the CFPB off that we need to pay attention to this company because there is something wrong with their monitoring of their sales and marketing message out there. And, we have heard things as crazy as companies setting alarms for teams of people in the middle of the night just to be able to start looking at those websites, making sure content is up to date so that if it is not, they can remediate on it quickly before that word spreads. And that just adds a layer of complexity, and probably the eight or nine years before, that was not really there because we did not have a lot of significant rate changes and definitely not what the frequency of what we are seeing today.

Ashley:
Those are all really good points. Perfect transition to talk about how automation can help with all of the number of things you talked about. So let’s talk about it. How can automation play a role in addressing these compliance challenges?

John:
Sure, yeah. I will not just make it about sales and marketing compliance, which is our world, but look across the spectrum of compliance, whether it is an MLKYC, whether you are doing transaction monitoring, whether it is compliance or cybersecurity in all of those categories, in order to scale the way that you need to, to provide the coverage that regulators expect and that you want to be, again, a good steward of financial products to consumers, it is really hard to do that manually. Historically, you probably could have gotten away with it. There was less complexity, there were less ways to market, there were less challenges when it came to fraud and cybersecurity and things of that nature. But today, automation provides the ability for scale to be able to do the monitoring that you need to do on a large scale basis without adding the headcount that most companies do not have the budget to add, at least not this year, and likely not next year as well.

John:
I will just give you one example. So, we have a bank that we were talking to probably about a year ago, and they were talking about conversations they were having with the state regulator, and the state regulator said to them, “Look, you are required to be able to show proof that you are monitoring in this example, all of your fintech partners and not just the companies that you are partnering with, not just their homepage and their social media account, but all of the different ways those companies are marketing themselves. So if they are working with influencers, if they are working with affiliates and lead generation, lead generators, you need to be able to prove to us that you have optics into that marketing message. Because at the end of the day, as the bank, you are the one that is backing those products that they are offering.”

John:
If you are a bank, in this case, they did not have just a few fintech partners, they had many fintech partners. It is impossible to do that manually. Then you are left with this decision, do we pull back on our fintech program that, in many cases, is a great way to do customer acquisition? It is a great way to serve an underserved population through these different partnerships. Like there is a lot of good that can come from the BaaS model and banks partnering with fintechs, or do we find an automated solution that can provide us the coverage, the reporting, the proof that we can use to show that we have optics into these areas? And then what happens is with the team that you had sort of manually monitoring and only covering a percentage of it, now they are being queued to where the actual risk is.

John:
That team is still very busy. They still have a lot on their plate, but the lot on their plate is after technologies already looked at everything and told them, “Hey, here is where you need to focus your attention.” And then when you look at it from a data perspective, now a bank can come to their fintech partners, and maybe they have a hundred and say, “Hey, here are the 10 that are consistently putting us at risk that are not remediating effectively, that are not following the guidelines that we are giving them. And maybe we do not want to partner with them on an ongoing basis.” But, it also opens up the funnel for the business development team to go out there and find more meaningful partnerships with fintechs without adding on additional risks. So in that example, you really cannot do that unless you have some layer of automation in there to help you scale that monitoring program.

Ashley:
Absolutely. Everybody can hear this, it sounds amazing, but everyone loves a good reference point, and I know that you have a couple, so could you share some real-world examples or just success stories of organizations that you personally have worked with that have benefited from automating these marketing compliance processes?

John:
Sure. Yeah. So I will give you a couple of examples and, and PerformLine does a great job of putting out different case studies and, and references and that sort of thing. But I am, at heart, a sales and marketing person. While I have grown really fond of compliance and how the two departments can work closely together, you will hear me use this phrase a lot, which is using compliance as a catalyst for growth. One of the examples I will give you is with a bank that had a credit card program, and they were looking to really grow in the co-brand space. Again, co-brand partnering with major brands who then are going to be going out there and doing the customer acquisition on your behalf. And this one works with a lot of major retailers and, and airlines and those sorts of businesses.

John:
They were limited in how many co-brand partners that they could add because they did not have any way to scale their compliance monitoring. They could not assure that all the places where and I am just using random companies here, but Delta or American Airlines were going to market their products, would be places that they could monitor on an ongoing basis and ensure that the terms and conditions were accurate, that the rates were accurate, that everything from a disclosure standpoint was there the way that it needed to be. They implemented PerformLine across the web and social media. Very quickly, because the technology was able to automate the monitoring process for them, they were able to add three times as many co-brand partners within the first 18 months. And it became a really great revenue generator for them. Their card program grew exponentially because of that.

John:
It was good for the business, the story itself made it up, kind of the leadership levels, and it looked really good on compliance because they were really partnering with the business as opposed to, in some cases being impediment to the business’s growth goals. Another example, when I talked about partner banks earlier. They are in the world of banking as a service. There were the companies that have been doing this for a long time, and then there are the regional banks that see this as part of their future where they want to launch programs. The partner banks that we see do this most effectively are the ones that think of compliance and advance of starting a fintech program. 

John:
There is one example of a regional bank that came to PerformLine and said, “Hey, look, we want to start this fintech partner program. We have a bunch of fintechs really interested in onboarding with us, but we will not do it until we know that we have the controls in place in certain areas.” And it was not just PerformLine, but it was a handful of areas that they wanted to make sure they had some software, some automation in there. So, we ended up starting to work with them before they launched a single fintech partner program. A lot of companies will say, “Well, we did not launch anything yet. There is no risk there.” But again, the companies that are being proactive in this space, they are saying, “We do not want to take on any unnecessary risk. We do not want to launch a program until we have the controls in place, and then that will allow us to scale effectively.” They kind of have this pipeline of six months to a year’s worth of fintechs that they were ready to onboard.

John:
They bring on PerformLine, they onboard their first one, and then within their first few months, they have six onboarded. And then after that, they onboarded. Now I think they are close to 10 or over 10. That is within like, the first year or 18 months of us working together. That is a great story because now they are a player in that space. They did it with a compliance in mind, and I imagine they were going to avoid a lot of the headaches that some other companies have run into in that space with the OCC, with the FDIC because they launched a bunch of partners before thinking about, “Hey, how can we scale the monitoring? How can we scale our reporting? How can we have the proof that we can use when we are audited by regulators to show them that we have controls in place to support this program?”

Ashley:
That is a great example. Almost playing offense as opposed to defense in terms.

John:
Exactly. Which again, when you think about risk and compliance, you think kind of defense, you think this is, and we have heard this from customers for years, “we send content to legal and compliance, and it takes two weeks to approve. Well, we do not have two weeks to go out there and launch this campaign.” And we think about like products like our document review tool that can turn that two weeks into two day turnaround time and all of a sudden where there was this friction between legal and compliance and marketing, there is a lot more cohesion and, and it is just about being open to not doing things the way that you have always done them. Being really thorough with your search for technology to see what can kind of fit in the gaps for you. And, and we will talk about this, I am sure before we wrap, but how to kind of make that presentation internally so that you get buy-in across the board in an area, again, where compliance does not always have the biggest budget for technology.

Ashley:
I want to ask you one more question, then we will do kind of a final thought wrap-up, but I did want to talk about it because you mentioned it prior to in terms of what keeps these folks up at night is the evolving landscape of regulations and rate changes. Can you just talk a little bit, John, about these ever-evolving industries and how these organizations can ensure that their automated compliance processes remain agile and adaptable to these new challenges?

John:
Sure. I do not want companies listening to this to think that, “Hey, we are just going to add a software provider, and that is going to solve all of our challenges,” because the reality is that you could bring in the best software in the world and all those categories that we talked about across risk and compliance, but if you do not have the processes and the procedures in place, it is just not going to work the way that you are expecting it to. Constantly looking at your own policies and procedures, matching them to what is going on from a regulatory standpoint is going to be really important. Working with other departments at your organization on an ongoing basis is going to be really important as well. How your team at a bank or at a fintech company is marketing, I promise you they are already talking about how it is going to be different in 2024, how they are reaching a different audience, how that audience consumes information differently than maybe our generation does or the generation before us, or the generation after us does.

John:
Really keeping that communication open across departments is going to be important. Then the third one is if you already have automation in place, if you are already working with software providers, that relationship needs to have communication as well. You should be talking to them on an ongoing basis, ask them to get on with their product people try to get an idea of what is on the roadmap for that company going forward. That is going to give you some ideas right across kind of their customer base as to what they see as important. Also, like at PerformLine, one of the things I am really proud of in my six years here is that most of our product or feature launches have come from feedback that we have gotten from customers where they say, “Hey, we have these gaps in these areas. The landscape has changed. We need to change with it. Can your product change with it?”

John:
It is not always going to be that case, but in a lot of instances, it will help to inform what we are building so that we can stay ahead of the curve on behalf of our customers. Again, not to be reactive. It is the same for software companies. You want ones that are going to evolve alongside you. We hope to, and we have been fortunate. I mean, we had companies when I got here six years ago that were already here clients for six years, and now they have been over a decade with us. And that only happens if both parties are evolving together.

Ashley:
Definitely. I think a piece of that, too, is just being aware of what is happening in the regulatory space. PerformLine, I am proud to say is pretty on top of what is happening there. I will also drop us in the show notes, but we have a regulatory roundup that goes out biweekly. I will drop a subscription for that in our show notes for today. If you want to stay on top of it with us, you can do that as well. All right, John, this has been so informative and wonderful, but do you have any final thoughts or recommendations for our listeners before we wrap up?

John:
Yeah. I mean, you took one of them, just making sure you are subscribing to PerformLine’s content. When I got to PerformLine, we hosted our COMPLY event, which has kind of morphed into the COMPLY ecosystem with the podcast, some of our regional events, webinars, and that sort of stuff. The whole energy behind it was, there are these great events and content for sales professionals. There are these great events and content for marketing professionals, and I think of like Salesforce and HubSpot, who are kind of the leaders in those areas. We want to be the leaders in empowering compliance professionals to be that rockstar at your organization, to build your skill set so that if you do change companies or if you do get caught in a layoff, you bounce back and end up in the next place right away.

John:
If you follow our content, you will see that that is really the energy that we are trying to create. If you join our round tables, we love when people participate because that is how the entire ecosystem gets better. If you follow our newsletter, you will see open job roles for compliance roles as we try to help people who have been affected by layoffs in the last year land their next great role. We are not the only ones to put out really good content. I know personally Venable, which is a law firm, I follow a lot of their content around advertising compliance. The Claros Group Productivity, who are two consultancies kind of focused on risk and compliance. They also put out a lot of great work, and we try to collaborate with them as best we can, but there is a lot more out there than there was when I started here.

John:
Just making sure you are dialed into that stuff, it is going to be really helpful. Then for companies that are looking to add automation but do not really know how to do it, the one thing that I would say is that we have seen companies do this really effectively from kind of small series a fintechs all the way to the top 10 banks in the world is to start to build your business case internally. It does seem like senior leadership and budget holders are more receptive than ever to not running into risk and compliance challenges going forward and seeing how that can slow down their business from a regulatory fine standpoint, from brand reputation standpoint. Just from some of the challenges that companies are dealing with after receiving a consent order, how can we best avoid that? The way to do that is to take inventory of the manual processes today, and really get detailed with the time it takes you to do the task that it does with how much coverage that effort is providing.

John:
Then do really thorough research with companies like PerformLine to see, what could the world look like? Not six months from now, but a year from now, two years from now, three years from now. I think that is one of the biggest changes that we have seen this year in 2023, is a lot of companies are now adding risk and compliance to part of an overall digital transformation. Because of that, they are really taking the time to make these business cases to say, “Hey, yes, we are going to incur more costs upfront by adding software, but over the course of time, this is how it is going to reduce our risk profile. This is how it is going to enable us to launch more products and market more effectively. And this is how actually it is going to save us money long-term because we are not going to need the amount of headcount that we once may have to provide the coverage that we need.”

John:
We love partnering with companies on making that case available, and on how to present it. But, that is really the best thing. When you are talking to software providers, I always recommend talking to references. That is the best way to figure out how other companies like yours have implemented and are using tools. You are going to get great information from the sales team, but at the end of the day, they are the sales team, and they are there to develop business. But the best ones are talking to you about real-life customer examples and real wins that they are putting on the board for their teams. We have a lot of those to talk about, which is something we are really proud of. Thank you for including me since episode one. I was hoping I would get the call to come on the podcast and participate. I am glad that we could be part of the 30th episode together.

Ashley:
Yeah, so momentous. Thank you, John. This has been awesome.

John:
You got it. Thanks, AC.

Ashley:
Thanks for listening to this episode of the COMPLY podcast. I will drop the resources mentioned during today’s podcast in our show notes, including instructions on how to subscribe to our regulatory roundup so you can stay up to date with us on the latest regulatory updates and a few other success stories of organizations who automated their marketing compliance processes. As always, for the latest content on all things marketing compliance, you can head to content.performline.com, and for the most up-to-date pieces of industry news events and content, be sure to follow PerformLine on LinkedIn. Thanks again for listening, and we will see you next time.

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