The Golden Rule of Global Financial Communication
Language really matters

BY Christophe Djaouani, Alexandra Jarvis,

and Jean-François Poulnais

INTRODUCTION

We joke about the preponderance of jargon in the financial services industry, and I dare say a glance through the rest of this publication will provide a few examples, often abbreviated into snappy acronyms. Yet each term, description, and acronym carries meaning that may be codified in law or in accepted local usage. In financial services, as in any other 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 promptly. 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 translation for the financial-services industry, we’ve identified four key areas of focus for any organization that’s required to produce multilingual communications. First, the bedrock of any translation strategy is quality, a catch-all term which includes accuracy, clarity, and comprehensibility. 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.

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“TO THE POINT”

The translation of financial communications and policies presents a huge challenge for companies and policy-makers in an industry that is constantly evolving. Communicating accurately and in a timely fashion are priorities.

Terminology related to specialized processes, procedures, and dynamics of the industry is complex. Mistranslations of key terminology may have serious consequences in terms of cost, compliance, and reputation.

Financial regulations and policies differ from country to country. While financial reporting in the EU has standardized through IFRS, the translation of financial statements in other jurisdictions requires an additional level of expertise.

Specialist translators, with a deep working knowledge of the finance industry, are key assets in improving the quality and accuracy of multilingual communications.

Improved accuracy, confidentiality, and less pressure to reformat your structured documents represent some of the core benefits of using an industry specialist translator, leaving you to focus on nurturing and maintaining effective global relationships.

GETTING IT RIGHT

Multilingual communication may not seem to top the list of risks that a financial institution faces. However, failure to provide accurate information promptly in all of the mandated languages for regulated documents, such as prospectuses or fund reports, could have serious consequences. Mistranslated regulatory documents can cause confusion and even risk non-compliance. That’s not to mention how unclear, inaccurate, or otherwise sub-standard local customer-facing information could have repercussions for a company’s reputation and client retention in that region and beyond.

So naturally, the first area that we are focusing on is quality.

Many people underestimate the extent to which accurate translation in financial services relies on expert industry knowledge. Moreover, 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, referred to, “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, some 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. In fact, the underlying mechanisms of the Epargne Salariale had nothing in common with the original text or objectives of the act.

Once a regulatory body publishes an error, it becomes 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 was intended? What risks do they run while the error is queried?

Clearly, when it comes to specific roles, products, or policies across borders, there is a high risk of misunderstanding — and the consequences of said misunderstanding can be significant. It illustrates the fact that translation of high-risk, business-critical content should only be handled by specialist language service providers (LSPs) whose translators and reviewers are experts in their field.

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The second area to consider is the impact of translation on your organization’s reputation. What we mean by this is that there are objectives that go beyond the basic necessity of an accurate translation. Here, there are several areas to consider. Consistency of terminology is critical across all output and channels — you can mitigate risk by using databases called “linguistic assets.” These are used in the translation process as part of quality control. Next, there is the document formatting that needs to be correct for the local market. Here, specialist tools and human skill are used to return translated documents in the correct format to avoid delays in publication.

Furthermore, 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 and marketing campaigns or website content. In many cases, the translation of this content needs a different approach and a skill set closer to copywriting. Yet the formal and informal also need to sit side-by-side comfortably, meaning that it is optimal for the translators of both types of content to be part of a collaborative team.

The third area we highlight is time-to-market. Content processes today are increasingly agile and deadlines incredibly short. As a result, translation turnaround times are a major pressure point. Just think of an initial public offering (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 in a constant state of revision, racing toward a hard deadline. Yet it is unthinkable that an IPO would have to be delayed because of the late delivery of a translated document.

To shorten delivery times as much as possible, translation processes must be optimized within the wider content management process. 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, while enabling output at speed and at scale. Moreover, these should ideally be further tailored to the finance industry. Examples of effective end-to-end technology solutions deliver functionality such as integrations directly 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, providing full auditability.

Last, but certainly not least, content security is an absolute imperative, whether in relation to personal data, inside information, or the proprietary information of the firm. Confidentiality is one of the highest priorities for any financial services business. If confidential data is exposed during the translation process, it could lead to irreparable consequences. It’s 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 when operating across many different markets. As an alternative, external translation vendors are rightly given a high bar for information security. As a result, those suppliers who focus on this sector must demonstrate adherence to information-security best practice and will deploy robust, state-of-the-art technologies that are secure and industry-compliant.

CONCLUSION

To recap, multilingual communications are complex and must be managed for risk in any financial services organization. With a focus on the key areas of quality, reputation, time-to-market, and content security, organizations should work with specialist LSPs who are experts in this highly regulated sector.

Christophe Djaouani is president of Toppan Digital Language.
Alexandra Jarvis is a chief strategy officer at Toppan Digital Language.
Jean-François Poulnais is a business consultant for Toppan Digital Language.

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