The COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying restrictions have chilled face to face contacts, but they have accelerated the use of virtual meetings and digital communications. When those meetings and communications are between people who speak different languages, there is a need to translate or interpret from one language to another. We’ll consider some of the tools and services that can help your business cross linguistic borders and bridge business interactions. What was important a year ago is essential now.
Localization vs. Translation vs. Interpretation: Which Services Do You Need?
Language services are big business. The Slator 2020 Language Industry Market Report estimated a $24.2 billion market in 2019. Language services income, largely delivered online, is projected to be reduced by 8% in 2020 by the immediate impact of the pandemic, but it’s expected to rebound by 2021.
Translation is the most familiar term to most, and a catch-all for language services across many business categories. The term, strictly speaking, refers to adaptations of documents from one language to another, but in common usage translation services cover a far broader range of linguistic activities. These days there’s a need not just to adapt textual documents but also software, audio-video recordings, and live events.
“Interpretation” is often used interchangeably with translation but, strictly speaking, is refers to spoken communications, not textual ones. There are simultaneous interpreters, used in public events or private meetings. Many professional interpretation services are now available online and on-demand.
The term “localization” emphasizes the broader dimension of communications across borders. Localization is the flip side of globalization, reflecting the idea that when you want to communicate globally you need to account for the location of the target audience and adapt more than natural language. For example, localization of a website must take into account date and number formatting, differing currency, and measurement units – all essential adjustments when dealing with financial matters.
Not to be underestimated in localization, too, is the need to take into account cultural differences, even between regions if not languages. Even within a given language, you need to be careful: Brits and Aussies, for example, may take offense at the language that is too American. These days there is a high sensitivity to diversity and political correctness among communications to different minority groups. It’s important to have someone on your team who is aware of the likes and no-nos of your target audience and can review any external communications with those sensitivities in mind, and to create multiple versions of messaging with this in mind, even within a given country or language.
Translation in Banking and Finance: Some Complications
Banking and finance industries tend to be highly regulated. Strict standards must be adhered to when dealing with anything connected to numbers and money. But what about words? They are more ambiguous than numbers. The translation is not a strictly regulated profession. Yes, there are certified translations, and what are called “secure translations.” But which authority certifies the documents? Which approves its security? Is a certified translated document inherently more valuable or reliable? Are there translation tests? Translation affidavits? The answer, sadly, is usually no or “it depends.”
The default solution for banks and financial firms when it comes to localization, translation and interpretation is to rely on reputation and track record. For sure, government certifications add credibility, but they do not guarantee accuracy or reliability. Often the solution is found in setting up a system of checks and balances for every translation project. That means hiring one contractor to check the work of another.
Translation Agencies vs. Freelancers: Which Offer the Best Checks and Balances?
What makes for a proficient translator? These days it is rare for a bank or financial institution to hire an in-house translator or interpreter. There are two main routes to finding professional translation services. The first is to hire a translation or localization agency. Google either of these phrases and you’ll easily find many contenders for your business. Refine your search by adding filter terms like “banking”, “finance” or “financial translations.” Many of the larger and more reputable translation companies have an on-call team of hundreds or even thousands of linguists, each with a specific language skill and domain specialty. Make sure to assure that you are being served by linguist experiences and deeply familiar with the terms and conventions of banking and finance.
If you want even more control, but also more management overhead, you can seek out professional translators on one of the many freelance marketplaces, such as Upwork or Freelancer.com. There you can search for translators with specific language skills and a financial pedigree. You can inspect rating and reviews. You can negotiate rates, terms, and delivery timetables directly. By going direct to the source, you avoid agency commissions, as the marketplace commission comes out of the freelancer’s income, not yours. But you will pay in terms of the time to manage the freelancer’s time and work as you are dealing one by one with individuals not an agency with accountability and a hierarchical structure. Especially if you have a complex translation project, the cost-savings may be outweighed by the great burden on your personal or staff time and the higher risk of translation errors.
Is Machine Translation Worth Considering?
In recent years the quality of machine translation has improved considerably, and it’s no longer a taboo for professional translators to use software services like Google Translate or Microsoft Translator. These mobile apps, for example, should be familiar to each staff member, from executives to customer-facing clerks. The latest release of the Google app supports more than 100 languages.
These translation apps are chock full of features for a banking or finance professional. Features like camera translation let you point your phone at a printed document and instantly translate it. The conversation mode of the app’s voice interpreter lets you have a fluent conversation with someone who speaks a different language. These gadgets can save time and improve understanding when working with documents in the foreign language and communications with foreign-speaking staff and clients.
Still, it would be risky to rely on software to translate any document for publication: the chance of mistakes or wrong nuances is too high. Human translation services are a better bet: human translators are not perfect, of course, but human-powered translations remain more reliable than those performed by algorithms. However, as in chess, Artificial Intelligence keeps narrowing that gap. The day is not far off when the human edge may be lost in translation.
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What comes to mind when people say AI and Automation?
Still to this day when you speak to people about AI and Automation, responses are fraught with fear that stems from some fictional movie or you might hear a stock response from a worried peer. Times are changing however, with more and more comprehensive fact-backed studies and real-life examples of where AI and Automation are delivering outstanding results. Unbeknown to people, they are not new.
AI and Automation are one and the same to me, with different aspects of a singular tool or combination of tools. AI is the Machine Learning and intelligence that allows the automations to be run and improved (either autonomously or through a CSI) over time. Think of it as learning to drive a car: the car (Automation) in which you are the driver (Human input), and to get from A to B you need an engine (AI) to be well designed and connected to the rest of the car to allow it to move. Next to you is the driving instructor (Machine Learning & ChatBot) …… depending on how well the driving instructor communicates with you will depend on how well you drive the car and his/her feedback will help you improve for next time, so you become more efficient.
What has changed?
Market conditions have forced businesses to look at how they service and interact with their customers and their employees from a User Experience and Opex point of view. With the increase in-demand for on-demand products and services, businesses have had to grow at an exponential rate.
For large businesses, this is a calculated decision led by their ever-changing strategy but nevertheless determined by market conditions. For smaller businesses this sometimes is a kneejerk decision and sometimes it works out for the good, sometimes the bad. The question is, how can AI and Automation impact these decisions and the need to quick decision making?
Is AI and Automation taking away peoples’ jobs?
This can be the elephant in the room, so let’s look at this. The world had been looking for ways to make peoples’ lives easier since the beginning of time, from the sickle evolving into the lawnmower, letters into phone calls, pen and paper evolving to computers, libraries into the internet … the list goes on. All of this to make people’s lives automated and easier, and yet with all this automation the world population has grown at an unbelievable rate and there are more jobs than ever.
Having been involved with many exciting projects and from introducing automation into businesses, here are some of the scenarios it creates:
- Allows businesses to cross and/or up skill department experts for faster RoI’s.
- Expands existing teams such as developers, PMO, other specialists’ roles.
- Introduces the option to bring services in-house, where new teams are established.
I am not going to shy away from the fact that AI does create situations where you can automate to the point of reassigning individuals to other roles, however the reality is that it enables businesses to be able to cross skill and move employees around within companies, something that has been far too static for too long. This is a positive development.
How has AI and Automation impacted Banking and Finance?
With the ever-changing landscape Banks face from consumer demands accelerated by new-generation banking clients and competition, answering those requests at different rates and in different ways can be a mine field.
From a customer’s experience, being able to communicate across all channels of communication is a priority and the amount of failed chatbots in the market has not given Artificial Intelligence a squeaky-clean reputation. Reasons for failure are due to NLP (natural language processing) and as most chatbots work on keywords, which they may or may not understand, the customer risks being asked the same question multiple times until they give up the will the live!
Some products in the market have focussed in on this as the key part of their toolset and the question we should be asking is ‘’If I had 100 customers ask a variation of the same question in different languages, can your product understand that question with a minimum 90% accuracy, and if so, where can you show me this?’’ Because believe it or not there are existing products doing this with 98% accuracy.
This being said, we are only just scratching the surface because when we begin to look at automation with internal IT supporting the business, there are institutions at the moment saving hundreds of thousands of hours’ worth of work a month through automating processes. And, the same things that these businesses are automating are the same things every business in the world either handles internally or via a service provider.
How can people realise the benefits from such technology directly or indirectly?
When I look at AI and Automation, I wonder why more people are not taking advantage of it, either directly or indirectly. On a personal level, there are many ways you can consume automation, from finance management to automated shopping. And for business, there are many ways automation can be consumed, whether you buy it directly to implement across your business, supported by internal teams, or begin to look at how your service providers use automation and how that can benefit you.
Speaking with industry professionals to understand how automation could be applied in the workplace is a good start, with automation technologies augmenting workforce capabilities significantly and, many would say, making human lives easier.
Take Five: Davos goes virtual
It is the end of January, so time for the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF), and Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde are among this year’s big-name speakers.
But Davos was not spared the pandemic hit; instead of gathering at the Swiss ski resort, the world’s great and good will do so virtually.
With the global economy deep in crisis, there is no shortage of topics: soaring unemployment and debt levels, growing income inequality and climate change.
And, like everyone else, the WEF is pinning hopes on normality returning – it plans a face-to-face meeting in Singapore in May.
Outpaced by a late-2020 surge in so-called value stocks, tech shares have roared back amid the pandemic’s unrelenting march. That is reflected in recent hefty gains for Russell’s 1000 “growth” index versus its value counterpart.
The gains could extend when Apple, Microsoft and Facebook report earnings. Also on deck is Tesla, which recently joined the S&P 500.
The results could push the combined market capitalisation of the FAANGs – Facebook, Amazon, AAPL Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet – back above their all-time peak of $6.16 trillion.
Netflix has done its part; robust subscription numbers reported on Jan. 19 have boosted its shares 17%. Now there are high expectations for the rest. Morgan Stanley has boosted the price target for Apple, declaring themselves “buyers ahead of what we expect to be a record December quarter print”. Microsoft reports on Jan. 26, followed by Apple, Facebook and Tesla a day later.
Graphic: The return of the FAANGs – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/oakpeyelnpr/Pasted%20image%201611266376120.png
3/RED ENVELOPE FOR HONG KONG
Record amounts of Chinese money are flowing into Hong Kong stocks, pushing the Hang Seng index above the 30,000 mark, making it a global top performer and putting a floor under Chinese companies blacklisted by Washington.
The inflows have also pushed Hong Kong interbank rates to multi-year lows, meaning authorities may not even need to inject cash, as they usually do in the run-up to February’s Lunar New Year holiday.
An upcoming $5 billion IPO from Chinese online video company Kuaishou may draw in even more mainland money.
For a city rocked by pro-democracy unrest since 2019, this endorsement of its markets is a positive. Unless, that is, one views this as another sign of China’s growing political and financial stranglehold on the special administrative region.
Graphic: Mainland investors hunt for bargains in Hong Kong – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/buzz/xlbvgylqevq/mainland%20investors%20hunt%20for%20bargains%20in%20Hong%20Kong.jpg
4/DRIVING OUT EUROPE INC BLUES
Europe’s STOXX 600 firms are expected to report a 26% earnings drop during the Q4 season which has just got under way. But that is history – let’s look instead at the January-March 2021 season when a 44% profit jump is predicted.
Such a surge seems intriguing given new continent-wide lockdowns. The explanation lies in consumer cyclicals, which Refinitiv I/B/E/S predicts will post an eye-popping 3,118% profit gain, versus the pandemic doldrums of Q1 2020.
Drilling down to single stocks, Daimler (1,471%), Fiat Chrysler, now Stellantis (177%) and Volkswagen (602%) turn out to be the largest contributors. Carmakers have seen their biggest earnings revisions in a decade and boosting shares to 14-month highs.
Graphic: Autos – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/qzjvqmnwxvx/Autos%20hold%20key.JPG
The coming week brings prelimary Q4 GDP data from France, Spain and Germany. Okay, the data is outdated and we already know the first quarter will show an activity dip from lockdown extensions. But let’s not be too hasty in dismissing the end-2020 numbers.
If the economies fared better than expected, it provides a cushion for the blow coming this quarter – that is the conclusion some reached after 2020 growth in powerhouse Germany turned out less bad than feared.
Also pay attention to Germany’s January inflation numbers, out Thursday. Those could show that a reversal in VAT cuts is easing the downward pressure on prices. In short, amid the pain inflicted by lockdowns, some positives might well lurk.
Graphic: Germany’s GDP data set for a bumpy ride – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/xlbvgyjmmvq/theme2201DR.PNG
(Reporting by Ira Iosebashvili in New York; Vidya Ranganathan in Singapore; Karin Strohecker and Dhara Ranasinghe in London; Danilo Masoni in Milan; compiled by Sujata Rao)
Hisham Itani and Resource Group Recognized in the 2020 Global Banking & Finance Awards®
Global Banking & Finance Review has awarded Hisham Itani the Chairman and CEO of Resource Group, Technology CEO of the Year Middle East 2020 in recognition of his vision, strategy and strong leadership that have contributed greatly to Resource Group’s success in winning the Most Innovative Holding Group Middle East 2020 in this Global Banking & Finance Awards®.
Resource Group is an investment group with a portfolio of diversified businesses that capitalizes on technology and human talent for value creation. The company has proven that it has gone the extra mile to develop innovative solutions aimed at improving people’s lives and helping Lebanon transition toward a knowledge-based economy. Global Banking and Financial Review, the renowned online and print magazine identified a number of areas that Resource Group has excelled. The company has been awarded Most Innovative Holding Group Middle East 2020, and Hisham Itani the Chairman and CEO, receives the award for Technology CEO of the Year Middle East 2020. Under his leadership, Resource Group has grown from a family security-printing business to a diversified international investment group, with a portfolio of companies across 10 sectors in over 75 countries.
Wanda Rich, editor Global Banking & Finance, said “Mr. Itani took the security printing business to another level and expanded into different technology verticals in an impressive list of success stories”. The list includes digital security, smartcard manufacturing, mobile value added solutions, cyber security and secure communication solutions, telecom infrastructure and managed services, elections supply chain services, lottery systems and operations, mobile and virtual reality games, among others.
Resource Group’s focus on technology has had a constructive and tangible impact on government automation and on citizen experience in target markets.
Editor Wanda Rich says “We are proud to offer Resource Group these prestigious awards and wish them continued success and growth into 2021 during these challenging economic times”.
Global Banking and Finance Review is a renowned online and print magazine. The magazine’s website alone receives over 7 million page views annually. Global Banking and Finance Review provides a balanced view with formative and independent news from the financial community. The Global Banking & Finance Awards® were created to recognize companies of all sizes that are prominent in particular areas of expertise and excellence within the global financial community. The awards are known throughout the global banking and financial community. They reflect the innovation, achievement, strategy, progressive and inspirational changes taking place within the financial sector.
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