About Financial Translation: 3 Keys from 2 Experts

by | Jan 16, 2020

Watch the recording of a free online experts panel to discover what leading financial localization organizations are doing to improve their processes, methods, and technologies.

Among the many resources created by the Wordbee content team is the International Buzz Podcast, a series of interviews with international experts on business, localization and global marketing.

Last year the Wordbee team interviewed Olivier Debeugny, CEO of Lingua Custodia, the only machine translation technology company founded by finance professionals. He talked about the unique task of translating urgent, financial documents, and how using machine translation solutions that are specialized for the financial domain allows for faster results.

According to Debeugny, the financial translation market represents approximately 20% of the global translation market and even so, the financial industry does not have enough specialized financial translators. 

The financial sector is complex and multifaceted: translators have to commit to a big up-front investment in order to acquire a deep knowledge of the various sub-sectors and types of texts, each with a different level of lexical complexity. 

A good financial translator or services provider is a rare bird and worth their weight in gold. But capability and time pressure are well-known issues. This is where an ad-hoc machine translation solution can offer some respite, although, always according to Debeugny, the human factor (i.e. post-editing) is still essential.

So, what does it take to provide first-rate translation services? We present you the experience of two veterans in the field.

#1. Regulations and compliance are critical

Rossella Martini has been working as a translator for almost 30 years, translating texts from German and English into Italian. For over 10 years she was employed in the finance and insurance industry, holding positions of considerable responsibility, while also working as a translator. This 360° experience has allowed her to successfully start her own business as a translation service provider for the financial market, F&M Martini and Associates, in 1998.

Rossella specializes in insurance texts and financial documents as well as auditing reports. A good number of her clients have offices or are headquartered in Switzerland. She explains: “In general, translating for the Swiss market requires special attention, but more so when working for the financial sector: As a micro-language, Swiss Italian can differ greatly from the Italian spoken and written in Italy. This problem of bilingual regulatory texts obviously does not exist with the German market, where the terminological correlation German-Italian is taken, for example, from European regulations.” 

Regulatory documents are a valuable reference for a translator, but they can also be a cause of headache. Rossella explains: “Some of the groundwork documents are available only in German, and sometimes in French. In addition, translators must be careful as some jurisdictions pay the price for obsolete documentation translated years ago and never revised, while in some cases financial terms have been either adapted or updated. When official legal documents go through several updates, on the other hand, you must be sure which terminological references are the most recent, because translators are required to use the recent officially accepted terminology.” 

As we mentioned in a previous blog post, with four official languages (French, German, Italian and Romansh), Swiss authorities take terminology very seriously. The Swiss Federal Administration employs about 200 translators and specialized linguists. Their work is supported by the Terminology Section, which places the terminology database TERMDAT, at their disposal.  

To Rossella, continuous professional development (CPD) is paramount. “Unfortunately, however specific, technological resources (for example, CAT tools) alone are not enough. Translators wishing to specialize in financial translation should subscribe to vertical websites and publications as well as attend events for finance professionals. Also, don’t forget to have a collocation dictionary at hand: in the age of the internet it may seem a triviality, but it is not. And my experience as a proofreader confirms it.”

#2. Financial translation suppliers are often separated into tiers

Chris Durban is a well-known translator with 45 years of experience: Here you can read the intriguing story of how she first became a specialized financial translator from French into English. 

She currently translates “investor relations; crisis coms; website materials; annual reports (front of book); CSR reports (front of book); brochures (financial products and services); strategy documents; C-suite ppts; listing announcements.”

Her work has taken her behind the lines to work one-on-one with senior executives in charge of investor relations, crisis communications and financial reporting at some of France’s largest corporations. And she points out one little-known fact in her sector: “Companies large and small often have two or more tiers of translation suppliers. If you have the skills and training, your aim should be to join the top tier, working directly with risk-conscious users of vitally important texts, rather than selling to intermediaries.” 

Durban explains “Bulk vendors that are MT-savvy and able to put together large teams for multiple languages and short deadlines can win a steady flow of work, and very definitely meet a need. But they are not the only game in town.

She suggests that translators with genuine expertise aim higher and target buyers whose decision-making power puts them outside the remit of the bean counters. “These are the assignments that interest me most,” says Durban, “since they offer intellectual challenges along with comfortable budgets. Adrenalin, too. Add in grateful clients who value your personal input, and what’s not to like?” 

#3. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is key to financial translation

Like Rossella Martini, she stresses the importance of CPD: “You must obviously subscribe to and read key business dailies and weeklies in both (or all) of your languages. You should be on top of all the resources that your clients read or track. I also listen to business news on the radio at regular intervals throughout the day; the aim is always to be in a position to react quickly to a developing story if it affects one of my clients.” In Chris Durban’s view, keeping your finger on the pulse is one way to identify “the document types that potential clients view as mission critical.”   

Taking part in events and courses designed for professionals in the financial sector is one way to consolidate ties with these clients. Chris informs us: “The financial services industry itself has lots of courses and events, some absolutely riveting, and often organized around a specific document type or industry challenge.” Examples include offerings from the IR Society and product-focused sessions like those organized by DII in France. Many national accounting bodies and professional associations for the insurance and banking industries also run courses for interested parties prepared to roll up their sleeves.

In recent years, price pressure on generalist translators and references to the money to be made in financial translation has triggered a flurry of “financial translation” training courses, but most of these leave Durban skeptical, not least because the bar they set is so low. “You need a genuine understanding of the big picture, the processes and the products, which takes years of study and unrelenting hard work.”

Chris Durban is one of the masterminds behind UETF,  the biennial summer school of the French translators association SFT. It is designed for translators who specialize in finance and who work with French and English. “Most of our speakers are bankers, economists and financial experts; themes vary from year to year and tend to reflect our host institution’s concerns. It is also a valuable event for the networking that takes place. There are both buyers and sellers, and we have a portfolio table for participants to show their work.

Specialized translation services and translation technology will keep growing in tandem. Wordbee will continue to offer an overview of the many aspects of the world of translation, of which financial translation is one of the most interesting and growing sectors.

Wordbee is a translation management system and CAT tool with solutions designed for Financial Translation.

If you are a financial organization and you suspect that you have workflow or management issues related to localization and translation, contact us for more details.

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