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Episode 40: Beyond the Booths: Marketing Compliance Conference Insights

In today’s dynamic compliance landscape, marketing compliance remains an overlooked realm within banks and fintechs. The potential solution? Increased collaboration and representation at industry conferences, along with more fintech participation.

In this COMPLY Podcast episode, I’m joined by Alex Morris, Senior Account Executive at PerformLine, where we chat about:

  • The need for more marketing compliance resources and content at consumer finance industry conferences
  • Challenges faced by compliance teams who need to do more with less
  • The crucial role technology plays in scaling consumer finance offerings
  • Heightened enforcement actions and higher standards in marketing compliance education in 2024

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:

Rhonda:
Hey there COMPLY Podcast listeners and thanks for joining us for this week’s episode. Today, I am sitting down to chat with PerformLine Senior Account Executive, Alex Morris. Known by many in the industry for her expansive knowledge of the BaaS and fintech space.  Alex and I will discuss what we have both observed at recent conferences and that is the growing absence of topics around marketing compliance. As fintechs and banks continue to partner, having a grasp on marketing do’s and don’ts will be more important than ever! We will also talk about the growth of fintech and bank partnerships and so much more.

Thanks for listening and enjoy!

Rhonda:
Hello COMPLY Podcast listeners, welcome to this week’s episode. I am so excited to be here today with one of my colleagues, Alex Morris, who I have kind of crowned the queen of all things fintech. Alex has a long history with PerformLine. I’m gonna let her introduce herself and tell you a little bit about her background and how she came to PerformLine. But I’ve really wanna welcome you, Alex, and let you know how excited I am for us to sit down and have this conversation. And hopefully you’re gonna be the first of several of the account executives here at PerformLine to join me on the podcast. I know we’ve spoke with so many others within PerformLine, but really excited to give you an opportunity to be here with us today. So if you wouldn’t mind taking a moment and introduce yourself and tell our listeners a little bit about you and why, you like doing what you do?

Alex:
Sure. And thank you, Rhonda, for the intro. So again, my name is Alex Morris, and today is actually, it marks my official 7 year anniversary here at PerformLine, work anniversary. It’s crazy to think that. Yeah, it’s crazy. I mean, 7 years in this industry has been quite the roller coaster, I think when I started here, if I go all the way back to my first day I was 23, I was like, what is RegTech? And now I am like fully in the weeds. 

And it’s just been year after year, just based on the wind that flows from, you know, really the regulators—it’s been quite the ride and very fun. I can’t say that it’s been fun, for probably some of the banks and fintechs that have been affected, but it just goes to say that compliance is always going to be in demand and solutions that help our clients today, we’re always growing that, and you know, it’s just been, it’s been really fun.

Rhonda:
Well, you know, I’ll always say regulators will keep regulating, and compliance will always have to comply. So that’s why you’re here and I think it’s so great. We’ve had so many shifts in the regulatory landscape, but you’re out there. You’re in front of people, I see you constantly traveling. You’re going to conferences. Lots of times, you’re just out here meeting with some of your clients.

But sticking with the conferences. How would you describe the current landscape of conference sessions? Kind of addressing marketing compliance and specific in the financial services industry since you’ve been out there, and you’ve seen kind of what’s happening.

Alex:
I will start with that there’s been probably in the last 3 years so many conferences focused on compliance and now focused in on the Banking as a Service space, and what these banks should be doing to prep for, or even if they have existing programs, it’s everything but marketing compliance. So I really think there is a gap there. I mean, we can talk all day about BSA/AML. Of course that is, you know, in the entire pie of a compliance program. Those are vital. But if you look at some of the recent I think commentary for regulators, enforcement actions, it’s everything but marketing compliance. But there is, I think it trickles. 

Marketing compliance is at the forefront of everything that trickles into problems that banks or fintech might have at the end of the day starts with how even the bank, or if you consider your fintech to be a branch of a bank, because ultimately the fintech customers are the bank’s customers, it really starts with the marketing, and knowing your fintech, knowing how they market, how are they attracting customers? And I think there is somewhat of a gap that I would love to see filled soon, because these compliance people, they care about every aspect of their program. It’s just a big question mark as to how they do that.

Rhonda:
I totally agree. And I feel like there’s also this lack of understanding, especially as I’ve been to a few conferences myself recently in this financial services space and and ultimately impacts not just the business, because definitely, there’s opportunities, you know, is when exams come, there’s opportunities where they may be fines but the reputational damage can really really impact them. But one of the things that I think all across the spectrum compliance folks are concerned about, especially those that I talked to on a regular basis, is that impact to the consumer, and not having that knowledge sometimes in that marketing space, it could potentially, and not intentionally, impact the consumer. So I don’t know if you have anything you’d like to share on that. But that’s one of the observations that I’ve had over time.

Alex:
Absolutely. I think you know everyone in this space. Every, I think, party of this ecosystem now needs to have a skin in the game for protecting the consumer and having a strong foundation of compliance from the start. Whether you are a brand new fintech in stealth mode. Hey—guess what now? Banks won’t even look at you or talk to you unless, you won’t go through the third party due diligence process, unless you have, I think, robust foundation, something that you can prove that you have the tools in place to, one be a branch of that bank, but also protect consumers, because those consumers are your customers are the bank’s customers, and I think there is some confusion with consumers who use, you know whether it’s a digital bank, neo-bank. 

However, you wanna use the lingo there. Some are not fully aware that this fintech/neobank is not an actual bank, and if you don’t have the right processes in place, hey? It’s going to trickle up to this community bank or sponsor bank eventually, whether that’s through complaints or I think ending up with the wrong customer base for this bank, which causes major problems down the road. So I really do think that the marketing and how your fintechs are promoting their products and services, the banks need to be fully invested from the compliance side, and work from the beginning through due diligence, but also throughout the relationship. To one make sure that your fintechs are growing, but that they’re doing that compliantly, so that you do have the right results when it comes to if regulators come knocking, exams, audits. You know we see a lot going on today with the BSA/AML. But you know, maybe the root could be how these fintechs are marketing.

Rhonda:
Yeah, and I know that especially in the conference circuit, one of the things that I also find is missing is the discussion around how technology resources can really help marketing teams in that space. And especially with the fintech space, because these banks that have this requirement of oversight. But you also have fintechs that have a responsibility that they have to adhere to some of those areas of compliance. And utilizing technology as many of us who, and I’m not gonna age myself, but I’m not tech savvy, but definitely utilizing technology is something that I think is so important. And just having the ability to get to learn and know a little bit more about technology resources that can help with compliance is something that I think is important. And also, I’ve noticed, is also missing when I’ve gone to a lot of conferences, and I don’t know if you’ve experienced something similar.

Alex:
So I would say, the general compliance sessions or panels at conferences that I’ve been to, they don’t always celebrate the compliance teams. If I think about our client base, or companies, or banks that are looking to work in, trying to make efficiencies with compliance, they are understaffed, they have very limited bandwidth. However, they have the weight on their shoulders to one, protect the bank, but also make everyone else happy. They’re not always going to be seen, let’s say by marketing teams or the got-to-market fintech expansion teams as heroes, but they really are. They’re the reason why a program even exists in the first place, and I think they need more credit. And I think that’s missing from a lot of the conferences that we’ve been in this space. And I think there needs to be something more to it than, alright—this is everything you’re doing wrong. Let’s talk about everything you’re doing right and how it can be better, and when it comes to a compliance program and how you can make efficiencies. 

Of course, everything we’re seeing that I think the hot topics today are the BSA/AML stuff, but those are things that with a limited size team, or a small bandwidth, of course you can use tools. And there’s a lot of great ones out there to help automate specific functions of BSA, Know-Your-Customer, AML, but that really needs to be the sole focus of these smaller teams. When it comes to creating efficiencies where the root of the problem is the marketing compliance—that’s where other like, it really needs to be a focus of how they can utilize or scale the existing teams and use technology where where it makes sense and put your people where it makes sense. And so there is kind of a fine balance, I think, between technology and humans. But if you have a small team, figure out how you can scale with that tech.

Rhonda:
I agree and I couldn’t agree more. And I feel like there’s also there’s that, how do we get that word out? How do we make sure that folks understand that there is someone out here, there’s there’s resources out there, and tools that they can use. And you know, especially when these conferences come up, you already look at the agenda, and it’s like, but there’s nothing about marketing compliance on there. So I’m getting 2 steps ahead and just making sure that you know folks they’re taking the time at the end of conferences when everyone’s getting feedback to just incorporate the importance of also speaking to the marketing compliance folks. Because I speak to a lot of them, like you do, when I do roundtables and it’s always questions about where to go to get the resources. How can people collaborate and a little bit more? And have someone to bounce those things off of and learn more, because it’s always evolving and changing. So I am excited about the future, and hopefully getting more opportunities to folks that are in the marketing compliance space. 

How do you think the industry collectively could work towards maybe establishing some higher standards for marketing compliance education in conferences? I’m excited about opportunities for people to get marketing compliance certifications, because I think the more people are educated, celebrated, certified, and trained, that it definitely protects the consumer, it protects the brand, it protects the reputation of the company. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

Alex:
Sure, so one thing that I’ve noticed is that banks will always show up. They will always show up to these conferences, they at the end of the day, they hold the responsibility. All, you know, obligations, everything will come back to the bank, so of course they’re going to be there. One thing I think that would encourage better, collaborative, and just like again back to everyone having skin in the game, I would love to see a bigger presence from these fintechs, no matter what size you are. Send somebody, even if you don’t have an in-house compliance team, or even if you’re using outside legal counsel, for you to have a seat at the table to be in this space, now you need to care. You need to understand what is going on. 

And really, to pass a third party due-diligence risk assessment, you need to have all of the boxes checked. These banks are now looking at how you market, they might not have the bandwidth to monitor everything. But hey, it’s your foot in the door if you have that solid foundation. And so I really want to see a bigger, more collaborative content in general at these conferences that include the fintechs. And don’t be scared, these fintech should not be scared, we should all lean into it because the banks are just as confused as you. I think, just coming from all of the commentary, and just the way that these enforcement actions from these regulators are going, we all need to lean into it together, and so I encourage fintechs to participate.

Rhonda:
And as we’re hearing more, it just feels like 2024 is going to be a year of enforcement. And we say it every year, but it just seems that there’s a lot more of a ramp up at all of the regulatory levels of just making sure the consumer protection stays forefront. And that comes with great responsibility when you’re in that space of being a fintech. So I’m hopeful that they will listen to your plea and make their way to some of these conferences to have an opportunity to engage with the banks. But also start really, really being boisterous about the importance of having an opportunity to coordinate and collaborate with others in this space, so that there’s an opportunity and access to the education and the knowledge.

Alex:
I totally agree, and just to go off of what I said about banks being present—fintechs are always there, but there needs to be content where fintechs are comfortable talking. Let’s just open up the conversation, talk about things that you are scared about talking about. Let’s open up that door and talk about fintechs, neobanks, what are you worried about? What are your challenges? With anything compliance related, third party risk, due diligence related, and also related to your marketing. We know that you are probably best-in-class, light years ahead of how any bank that you want to partner with, what they’re capable of doing marketing wise. You guys are experts in that space, but let’s talk about how we can incorporate the compliance piece so that we can empower your marketing to grow your business, but also make the bank be, hell yes, let’s work with this fintech

Rhonda:
And avoid pitfalls! There’s so many pitfalls that if you don’t know, if you aren’t aware, you can fall into. So we want to make sure that there’s that well rounded coverage that people have access to, and just to know, who can offer that? Who can be your ally in that process? So yes, I agree. And I’m excited for what’s to come this year. Definitely feel like there’s some grand opportunities that folks can take advantage of. I remember back a couple of years ago, you and we did a webinar, and it was a roundtable, I’m sorry. I think we have folks from the fintech space on and when the questions came about, where we were asking folks if they had questions, everyone got quiet. And I just remember thinking, it’s because no one wants to ask the wrong question. Well, there’s no such thing as a bad question, so we want people to learn and grow and to definitely be positioned to really, really as you said, have some skin in the game when it comes down to consumer protection.

Alex:
Year 100%, and I look forward to the conferences to come this year. Our next one, which I will be at by the way, is Fintech Meetup in March, March 3rd to the 6th. And I’m sure well, just based on last year, there is going to be hundreds of fintechs and everybody in this space. I’m sure there’ll be probably so many different topics that are relevant today, but I would love, love, love, love, love, to talk to anybody about compliance. And you know all questions are welcome. 

Rhonda:
What advice would you give to the folks that are attending Fintech Meetup? You’ve been there a few times now, so what advice would you give to someone that’s new coming to this conference? 

Alex:
Well, one wear comfortable shoes to be prepared to walk, and also have water bottles in your backpack at all times and be prepared to talk nonstop. Because it’s like a speed dating setup, and it’s super productive. But just be prepared to have the most productive conference that you’ll probably ever go to and be prepared to have fun, because it is a really good time.

Rhonda:
And ask lots of questions and challenge folks.

Alex:
Ask lots of questions and come see me if you’re going, I’ll be there!

Rhonda:
Find Alex there we go! Well, Alex, I can’t thank you enough for taking some time out of your busy schedule, because I know your schedule is busy. But I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to sit with me today and talk a little bit about some of the conference circuit as well as our wonderful fintech partners that are out there, that are wanting to grow in this space and just opportunities for them to really, really take advantage of what’s ahead in the coming year as they’re learning, and they’re growing and partnering with banks. 

So indefinitely as always to our listeners, I want to thank each of you for taking the time to listen to this episode. I hope that you found something useful within it. If you’re going to be attending any conferences definitely, look for Alex, look for myself, look for somebody from PerformLine. We look forward to talking to you and getting to know each of you, and thank you for joining us today.

Rhonda:
Thanks for listening to this episode of the COMPLY Podcast, as always, we hope that you were able to take away some useful information that will help you to better prepare your compliance program.  If you would like to connect, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line. I am always happy to connect on LinkedIn!

You can find additional resources including our blog post on building an efficient and compliant ecosystem in banking and fintech. As well as Alex Morris’ LinkedIn information in today’s show notes, and so much more. 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’ll see you next time!

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