The regulator is baring its teeth: three ways financial comms should respond

Last month the financial services regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), made a bold move and threw the ban hammer at insurers’ practice of ‘price-walking’ – which means offering preferential rates to new customers.

Don't be the first to be bitten by the regulator, warns Chris Blackwood
Don't be the first to be bitten by the regulator, warns Chris Blackwood

This is reflective of a regulator that is stepping up its game in challenging practices that don’t serve consumers’ best interests.

Its language in reviews and presentations suggests it has a sharp eye on a number of companies and industries, in terms of both culture and conduct.

For PRs in the financial services world, this is actually a good thing, because the way that financial firms relate to the public is under greater scrutiny and the stakes are now higher than ever.

There are three very important ways that we in financial comms should respond; truth be told, things we should already be doing:

1. Stress-test your clients' commitments

This is to ensure consumer engagement is more than just skin deep. Gestures simply won’t do. Your client has to face the fact that If they only pretend to be helping, they’re not helping.

2. Be creative when it comes to engaging with customers

Plonking some tips on your blog isn’t getting anyone to sit up and pay attention. Look at the multitude of creative ways you can engage with consumers on platforms they love. Be different.

3. Make sure the FCA can take note

This is where consumer and corporate comms really do go hand in hand. Your consumer initiatives, and their successes, feed directly into your corporate narrative. They give you a reason for that executive profile, or even ammunition to defend against unfair criticism.

All of these steps require clients to commit strongly to their PR initiatives and put proper resources behind them.

This includes paying for intelligent and creative consultancy. It’s perhaps one of many reasons why comms is solidly ‘at the table’ when it comes to the highest levels of decision-making.

And should some companies choose to scrimp? Well, as the regulator increasingly bares its teeth, they’ll be the first to be bitten.

Chris Blackwood is managing director of Third City

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