The financial services sector isn’t for the faint hearted. It’s governed by a host of regulations and compliance rules that everyone from sales, to back office to marketing need to be aware of. The smallest slip can result in disciplinary action or complete suspension of business, so it’s important to clue up on the facts. As a content marketing agency for the finance sector, we’re constantly eyeing up GDPR, ESMA, CySEC and providing monthly Regulation Roundups covering all the essential updates. But this time, we’re all eyes on Australian regulator ASIC. Join us as we delve into marketing for ASIC brokers.
The Australian Financial Landscape
The Australian dollar is a major global currency. It’s also one of the top five traded currencies in the world accounting for approximately 7% of daily forex transactions. While investors and traders are attracted to AUD/USD liquidity with intraday traders looking to capitalise on short-term price fluctuations; other investors turn to this pair with the aim of achieving long-term capital appreciation. The AUD is therefore very much in the spotlight with Australia also being a major participant in the forex market as it’s the first hub to kick-start the trading week.
The Importance of ASIC
The job of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is to regulate the ever-growing, ever-complicated financial services industry. ASIC’s role under the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 is to license and monitor financial services businesses throughout Australia to ensure that they operate efficiently, honestly and fairly. It’s all about limiting malpractice and deception while giving structure to the Australian Finance sector. Just like ESMA across Europe. ASIC is designed to:
- Maintain, facilitate and improve the performance of the financial system and its entities
- Promote confidence and informed participation by investors and consumers in the financial system
- Administer the law effectively and with minimal procedural requirements
- Make information about companies and other bodies available to the public as soon as practicable.
- Take necessary action to enforce and give effect to the law.
Who Does ASIC Apply To?
If you’re a financial company thinking ASIC rules and regulations don’t apply to you, there could be a big problem. Why? Because ASIC regulates financial services, consumer credit and authorised financial markets operating in Australia. That gives this regulatory body huge importance and power. They license and regular people and businesses engaging in consumer credit activities. That includes banks, credit unions, finance companies, mortgage providers and finance brokers to ensure legal obligations are being met. So, if you’re an ASIC broker, you’re being watched and scrutinised. And if you break the rules, or are suspected of breaking the rules, ASIC can:
- Exercise information gathering powers and issue a substantiation notice
- Issue a stop order or seek an injunction to stop continued advertising
- Issue a public warning notice and cancel an Australian Financial Securities (AFS) licence or credit licence or vary the conditions of the licence. As an AFS is required by brokers to conduct trading legally in the region, having this stripped from you could wipe out your business in its entirety.
Regulation is no joke. And in 2019, ASIC tightened its grip over financial service providers further in order to create a fair and honest market for retail traders whether located in Australia or abroad. For example, ASIC made it clear that every regulated member must be completely transparent about their financial dealings and should submit periodic audit reports to ensure that companies adhere to a strict code of conduct.
Brokers must also be capitalised to the tune of at least $1 million operating funds and must only work with tier 1 banks for segregating their clients’ funds from their own corporate accounts. This means that the broker may never access or use the funds for their own purposes. Legislation enacted in 2019 strengthened the criminal and civil penalties for financial sector misconduct and introduced a design and distribution obligations regime for finance services firms and product intervention power for ASIC.
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ASIC Regulations and Content Marketing
ASIC regulations are strict and consumer focused. But where does this leave you as an ASIC broker, looking to market your products and services? Well, marketing for ASIC doesn’t have to be difficult. But you do have to follow the rules. Or, you know – get the professionals to write compliant copy for you (hint, hint).
When marketing financial products and services, it’s important to have a good practice strategy that’ll help you avoid slip-ups and keep you on the right side of the law.
- Create Balanced Messaging
According to ASIC, advertisements and marketing material for financial products and credit products should give a balanced message about the returns, benefits and risks associated with the product. Benefits should not be given undue prominence compared with the risks to make a service seem more appealing. Marketing material must not create unrealistic expectations.
Top tip for marketers: If your content seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t forget all the necessary risk warnings tailored to the specific products and services you offer. Never sugar coat. Get straight to the facts. And always double check before you put anything live.
- Highlight the Risks
Information about the risks of a product should be clear and not hidden or difficult to understand. The overall tone of the marketing material should not undermine the importance of the risks. For example, if you’re promoting CFD trading, you must highlight the risk of substantial losses for your advert, social media content or website copy to be acceptable.
- Avoid Misleading Headlines
ASIC states how warnings, disclaimers and qualifications should not be inconsistent with other content in an advertisement, including any headline claims. For instance, advertisements for CFDs should not include headline claims such as ‘Build personal wealth with low-risk trading strategies’ or ‘Safely harness the leverage power of CFDs.’ Words such as ‘low-risk’ and ‘safely’ are extremely misleading when the product could indeed lead to huge losses.
And this goes for email subject headings, video titles, eBooks and basically everything else!
Top tip for marketers: Compile a list of words and phrase you must not use in any marketing copy including (but not limited to) ‘safe,’ ‘secure’, ‘guaranteed’ ‘success’, ‘hassle-free earning’, ‘huge returns’ and such like. Avoid such jargon to stay out of the ASIC regulatory spotlight.
- Present Warnings Clearly
When it comes to content marketing for ASIC, presentation matters. Warnings, disclaimers and qualifications should have sufficient prominence to effectively convey key information to a reasonable member of the audience on first viewing the advertisement. Consumers should not need to go to another website (or other page of the website) or document to correct a misleading impression.
So, no small print. No hiding messages deep within your website or faded out on the footer of your images. Warnings should be located next to the service you’re offering and marketing.
Warnings should also be displayed clearly on social media posts like the below example from FXCM. Sure, warnings don’t look glamorous and they can make posts appear ‘samey’ but they’re 100% necessary, so never leave them out.
Video warnings should also be clear and not undermined by distracting sounds or images, so make sure you’re consistent with compliance across all media types and platforms.
- Be transparent
Transparency in financial services marketing under ASIC is incredibly important. Where a fee or cost is referred to in an advertisement, it should give a realistic impression of the overall level of fees and costs a consumer is likely to pay, including any indirect fees or costs. Here’s how global FX broker eToro navigated the issue on their website.
Comparisons should only be made between products that have sufficiently similar features or, where an advertisement compares different products, the differences should be made clear in the advertisement. Past performance information should be accompanied by a warning that past performance is not indicative of future performance. Forecasts about the future performance of a financial product should be based on reasonable assumptions and should also state that the forecasts are not guaranteed to occur.
- Avoid sweeping statements
Marketing for ASIC means that materials should not state or imply that a product is suitable for particular types of customers, unless the promoter has assessed that product is suitable for that class. Actually, generalising is not the best idea in content marketing.
- Be careful on targeting
It’s a wide world out there and it can be tempting to approach as many potential traders as possible. But… if you’re regulated under ASIC but not CySEC or the FCA then you should only be targeting the Australia region. Adverts actively promoting your services to Europe could land you in hot water. Watch your targeting on Facebook, Twitter, Insta and Linkedin to ensure you’re not including regions you’re not regulated under.
ASIC Marketing – What Works?
While marketing for ASIC might seem a little overwhelming at times, there’s a lot of really cool things you can do as an ASIC broker to keep your audience entertained and informed while ensuring your brand remains in the spotlight.
- Posting polls
Asking your social media followers questions is perfectly acceptable and won’t go against basic ASIC regulation. So, why not create a poll to inform your audience while also boosting engagement? Sharing the percentage result is fine too. Asking an opinion, as long as it does not incite trading or contain a link to trade, does not require a risk warning. Nicely done eToro.
- Post market insights
Become a go-to source of information for traders by posting market insights that might impact their overall decision making. Stick to the facts and give a breakdown of key statistics and currency pair comparisons. Always back up any stats with an official and reputable source.
- Tweet timely information
Twitter is ideal for posting timely, on-point information. In fact, #Australia and #AUS are closely followed on the platform. Trading is a fast-paced business with many people watching the markets closely throughout the day, so it’s a good idea to be alert and have someone regularly updating your account. Again, stating market movements without inciting trading or including a link to trade, does not require a warning.
Take a look at the timeline of the above posts from FXTM. Updates tend to be made hourly, to keep the platform alive and active. With almost 100K followers, staying on the ball is a must.
Remember though, retweeting another source can be viewed as an endorsement. so, if you retweet something that promises instant wealth from trading, you could be on shaky ground. This retweet is just fine as Bloomberg is a reputable source of market news and the tweet itself is safe and factual.
- Keep up with the news
From stock reports to company politics, keeping up with Australia’s news and posting relevant content to social media can help boost brand awareness. Be sure to use the relevant hashtags to encourage conversation and to make your posts easy to find.
- Include eye-catching imagery
Tweets with images get 2.3 times more engagement than tweets without. So, try to include eye-catching pictures or GIFs to attract attention. This tweet from leading Aussie broker Pepperstone is just fine.
Beware of any misleading messaging or wording on the image itself as you don’t want anything slipping through the net that could land you in regulatory hot water. Adding a risk warning to an image showing a guy getting rich from trading might not be enough to cover you.
Contentworks and ASIC Brokers
As an international content marketing agency for the finance sector, we’re fully clued up the rules. Our director Charlotte has authored several articles on the topic, one of which you can read here.
How to Be Great at Social Media for Financial Services
We understand how to create compliant content for a wide range of broker types and have worked under ASIC to provide marketing material for reputable ASIC brokers across Australia. Our compliant services for ASIC brokers include:
- Social media management
- Video scripts & production
- Blogs and articles
- PR material
- Reputation management
All content is fully tailored to the needs of your business and won’t put you at risk of ASIC regulatory scrutiny. Additionally, we are accustomed to working with compliance officers so you know your published content is approved and safe. Get in contact with the Contentworks team today to discuss the content marketing needs for your ASIC regulated broker.