The golden rule of global financial communication has been saved
The golden rule of global financial communication
Language really matters
Performance Magazine - Issue 39 ⬤ Published on 14 July 2022
The golden rule of global financial communication
Language really matters
President, Toppan Digital Language
Chief Strategy Officer, Strategy, Toppan Digital Language
Business Consultant, Financial Services (Asset Management), Toppan Digital Language
To the point
We often joke about the prevalence of jargon in the financial services industry, but the importance of clear communication around technical concepts and terms cannot be stressed enough. Each term, description and acronym carries meaning that may be codified in law or in accepted local usage. And in financial services, as in any highly regulated sector, language really matters.
And here is the challenge: the financial services industry is generating more content than ever before – and at ever-faster rates. Industry participants must communicate with many stakeholders, on different topics, across new channels and in an expanding variety of formats. At a minimum, it is crucial to communicate accurately, clearly and in a timely manner. The consequences of errors and delays can be severe. Furthermore, as industry participants expand globally, these communication challenges, and their associated risks, multiply.
As experts in the translation process for the financial services industry, we have highlighted four areas of focus that any organization should consider when producing multilingual communications:
- First, the bedrock of any translation strategy is quality, a catch-all term which includes accuracy, clarity, and ease of understanding.
- Second, is reputation, which goes beyond the basics of quality into consistency, brand voice and differentiation.
- Third is time-to-market, which implies an optimization of the translation process, enabled by technology.
- And fourth is content security during the translation process.
Focusing on all four areas can significantly reduce the risks associated with producing multilingual content.
Multilingual communication – which usually involves the process of translation – may not seem to top the list of risks that a financial institution faces. However, failure to provide accurate information, on time, in regulated documents – such as prospectuses or fund reports – in all mandated languages, could have serious consequences. Regulatory documents that have been mistranslated can cause confusion and risk non-compliance. Additionally, any localized, customer-facing information that is unclear, inaccurate, or otherwise sub-standard, could have a negative impact on a company’s reputation and client retention in that region and beyond. Naturally, the first area to focus on is quality.
Financial firms should not underestimate the extent to which accurate translation relies on expert industry knowledge. In fact, it relies on expert sub-sector, in-market knowledge. It is not just the literal translation of the words that matter, but their technical and regulatory meanings. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
An error in the translation of an EU regulation by the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority (DFSA) recently underlined the importance of expert review in the translation process. The DFSA received several inquiries concerning a reference to “financial advisers” in the Article 2(11(d)) of the Disclosure Regulation. This could have been interpreted as individuals operating as Independent Financial Advisers. In fact, the original text, and therefore the entities in scope of the regulation, was “Investment firms […] providing […] investment advice,” a distinct entity type authorized under MiFID II.
A second example relates to the translation and a detailed understanding of financial products. When the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) came into law, it could be assumed that the French “Epargne Salariale” schemes (a common type of employee savings scheme) were captured as equivalents to the US 401k defined benefit pension schemes. However, the underlying mechanisms of the Epargne Salariale had nothing in common with the original text or objectives of the Act.
Once an error has been published by a regulatory body, it can then be quite difficult for the businesses and trade associations who must comply with those regulations to know what to do and how to interpret them. Should they comply with the regulation as it is written, or as it was intended? What risks do they run while the error is queried?
Clearly, when it comes to specific roles, products or polices across borders, there is a high risk of misunderstanding. This is something we have had to deal with on many occasions, and the consequences can be significant. These challenges underline the fact that translation of high-risk, business-critical content should only be handled by specialist language service providers whose translators and reviewers are experts in their field.
The second area to consider is the impact of translation on your organization’s reputation, particularly for objectives that go beyond the basic requirement of accurate translation. Consider the following examples. Consistency of terminology is critical across all output and channels. We can reduce the risk of inconsistent language by using databases, or “linguistic assets,”, that support quality control in the translation process. Document formatting also needs to be adapted for the local market. Here, both specialist tools and human insights are used to return translated documents in the correct format to avoid delays in publication.
In terms of a company’s brand reputation, it is also worth considering that a significant proportion of content created by financial services organizations is less formal – think consumer communications, marketing campaigns, or website content. In many cases, the translation of this content needs a different approach and a skillset closer to copywriting. Yet both the formal and informal content need to comfortably sit side by side, making it ideal to have translators of both types of content on the same collaborative team.
The third area to address is time-to-market. Content processes today are increasingly agile with incredibly short deadlines. As a result, translation turnaround times are a major pressure point. Consider an IPO prospectus that must be produced simultaneously in two languages. Not only is the terminology highly specialized, but the document itself is the product of many authors and is in a constant state of revision, racing towards a hard deadline. While hard to imagine, it is not uncommon that an IPO could be late simply because of document’s delayed translation.
To shorten delivery times as much as possible, translation processes must be optimized within the wider content management process. And as previously mentioned, while human expertise remains vital to the delivery of business-critical content and translations, specialist language technologies should also be deployed to support the quality objectives, simultaneously enabling output at speed and at scale. Additionally, it is best if these tools are further tailored to the finance industry. The most effective end-to-end technology solutions should offer direct integration into content management systems, automated workflows, computer-assisted translation tools and quality monitoring. These systems play a crucial role in the content risk-management process and are easily audited.
Last, but certainly not least, is content security, which is an absolute imperative for both personal data and a firm’s proprietary information. If confidential data for any financial services business is exposed during the translation process it could lead to irreparable consequences. Therefore, it is no wonder that companies in the finance sector sometimes use their own in-house teams to translate content to manage and mitigate the risks of data loss. Yet the difficulty with this in-house approach is that it can be expensive and inefficient, particularly if operating across many different markets. As an alternative, external translation vendors are appropriately held to a high standard for information security; they should demonstrate information security best practice as well as deploy robust, state-of-the-art technologies that are both secure and industry-compliant.
In summary, multilingual communications in any financial services organization are complex and should always be managed for risk. With a focus on the key areas of quality, reputation, time-to-market and content security, organizations should work with specialist language service providers who are experts in this highly regulated sector.