Conquer compliance bottlenecks, part 3: Sources and citations

The economy was in an upswing prior to the pandemic.

Mortgage rates are at their highest in two decades.

The world’s biggest hedge fund oversees about $300 billion in assets.

While each of these statements may be true, why should your compliance reviewer (and your readers) believe them on their own merits, without proof? 

If your content isn’t backed by adequate substantiation, it’s not as believable as it could be, which can create a compliance headache. Not to mention, lowering trust and engagement with consumers.

Here’s how you can fix it.

Back, back, back it up

Even if the above statements were common knowledge or based on personal expertise, they would pack a bigger punch if linked to actual market data or research from external, credible sources.  

Known as substantiation, better attribution to evidence or proof to back up qualifying statements or numbers is the response most compliance officers will have to data that sounds generic as well as specific data without a source. 

Sourcing is journalism 101, and it’s necessary especially if you’re not a well-known authority on the topic or your reader is not an expert in the subject matter. 

Here are some ways to make the above statements more powerful. 

The economy averaged 2.3% growth per year between 2009 and 2019.  
Here, we’ve linked to data provided from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan research and policy institute. If we really wanted to go deeper, we may even cite the article itself and add this sentence after our qualifying statement:

Mortgage rates are at their highest in 23 yearss.
Here, we’ve linked to Freddie Mac data, which substantiates the sentence and also reflects 1-, 3-, 5- and 1-year historical chart data. Freddie Mac is generally a highly regarded source as it is a government-sponsored enterprise.

The world’s biggest hedge fund, Citadel, oversees $339 billion in assets.
Citadel’s AUM is corroborated by the most recent Investopedia listing of the world’s top 10 hedge funds.

Not all sources pack the same punch  

You may find that lots of journalistic articles, news reports, bloggers, and blogs will discuss or interpret survey and study results. 

That’s great, but they aren’t a source of original data, a survey, or study providers; they are reporters and aggregators of that information. 

Seasoned writers know this and make this distinction when citing data, by trying to link to original sources rather than aggregate reporting. 

While a notable Forbes contributor may have an interesting opinion on a study, it’s better to cite the study than the Forbes article. 

Quality sources also often need to look beyond bloggers for credible data provided by non-profit, government, or institutional entities.

If you want to put this compliance bottleneck behind you, use only the original sources for data you cite, be specific about numbers, and make it easy to verify where your numbers and facts come from by providing links to your research.

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