The Future of Translation in Financial Services
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The Future of Translation in Financial Services

Like almost every industry, the financial services sector is beginning to embrace digitization. More than half of financial services firms list their top strategic priority as rethinking and digitizing their client interactions, according to Deloitte.

Retail banks are looking to new technology to accelerate growth as they face major competition from fintech firms and online banks, which are already several steps ahead when it comes customer engagement.

Providers now understand that a better grasp of digitization gives their customers more control, more choice and easier access to their money. In return, firms are able to improve access to data that helps them understand customer behaviour and predict revenue growth and profitability.

Global companies are investing heavily in artificial intelligence, data analytics, blockchain, process automation and the Internet of Things in order to update and future-proof their systems. It requires ongoing investment in new tools and platforms and accurate localization of products and services to ensure they comply with differing regulations around the world.

This digitization of the client experience will also affect a wide range of interactions that require financial translation.

Digital documents in the financial sector

Very few consumers seem to want paper copies of things like annual reports and prospectus anymore. For example, from January 1, 2021, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will permit certain funds to send investors to a web address to view annual and semi-annual reports instead of delivering full-paper versions.

Digital transformation is traditionally associated with greater responsiveness by offering instant access to information. The move to online reporting may actually give financial translators more flexibility when it comes to project deadlines. With funds no longer needing to build time into schedules for printing and mailing physical reports, it means more time for translators to do their job before documents are provided to global users.

But in such a highly regulated environment, digital transformation must be executed carefully. Financial translators are already extremely adept at navigating the complex and varied financial rules that govern each country. But as digitization continues, some new and interesting challenges will surface.

Translating for chatbots

Chatbots are now becoming a common form of financial communication, capable of handling transactions ranging from bill payments to portfolio management. When enterprises go global, all chatbot content needs to exist in multiple languages.

But training the machine learning behind a chatbot with the right words, phrases and synonyms can be extremely difficult.

Financial translators will need to work with developers on a huge range of factors, from how the AI differentiates between similarly phrased questions to making sure that answers don’t fall foul of individual countries’ regulations.

These conversational interactions are also at odds with the formal language used in most financial collateral, requiring a careful balance of a casual tone of voice and highly accurate information.

Translating for fintech apps

Some of the same problems faced in chatbot translation are also present when financial services launch a global app. But mobile-only platforms offer even more challenges. Differing string lengths across languages can disrupt an app’s user interface, with different scripts also creating typography headaches for developers.

In addition, app localization for both the Apple iOS and Android platforms use a similar (but not identical) ‘key and string’ system. Here, a key is the instruction for the app and the string is the accompanying text for the user. Successful localization requires translators to work with developers to decipher which string belongs to which key—a difficult enough task without even thinking about ensuring that the financial language is correct.

Two ways to smooth the translation process of these new formats is to internationalize the software ahead of time to ensure it is localization ready and to build localization and linguistic testing into the project development life cycle so that translations can be verified in context and display and functional issues can be fixed prior to market launch.

Translating digital pitch books

Historically, a pitch book—the sales document used by investment banks and brokers to woo new clients—could easily be a 30-page PDF. But the trend towards focusing on client experience also means that pitch books are evolving to more concise, digital and interactive presentations. The integration of business intelligence tools such as Microsoft Power BI or Tableau means that language service providers must continually adapt to incorporate new formats beyond standard PowerPoint or PDF presentations.

While this isn’t strictly the job of a translator—they can simply focus on the words—the future of financial translations will require closer collaboration between designers, engineers and linguists.

Neural MT in financial translations

The increasing sophistication of neural machine translation (NMT) means it is already capable of translating financial documentation for internal use, with the caveat that there must often be an experienced human translator doing the post-editing.

Interestingly, a good financial translator does not necessarily make a good post-editor. Post-editing requires a different skill set and specific training, adding to the continuous development of new techniques and knowledge required in the field.

The complexity of numbers and terminology in financial content means that human intervention is unlikely to be eliminated anytime soon. But it will be possible to achieve far greater volumes of highly accurate financial translations.

What happens next?

The labyrinthine regulatory systems of global finance will make digital transformation slow for some parts of the industry. However, by giving global users better control over their accounts and easier access to services, firms can be more agile and ultimately provide a better user experience.

Financial translators and language service providers are already experts in the linguistic side of these transactions. But as the industry increases its efforts to digitize client engagement, the most successful financial translators will also need to understand the language of app developers and engineers.


Whatever your next financial translation project, talk to us about the best solution for your needs.