As financial institutions continue their journey toward greater language accessibility, they must take the progressive step of opening a ”front door” for written translations of essential documents, messages, and materials. This step is instrumental in ensuring robust quality of execution and governance to a process that carries a unique level of risk. Above all, providing expanded content ensures customers with limited English proficiency (LEP) can fully understand their banking services and agreements, building trust in their relationship with the bank or credit union. Don’t misunderstand: This step is easily stated, but execution takes persistence and strong horizontal partnerships across the organization.
Document Translation: A Key Component
One of the cornerstones of a language access plan is a well-managed process for translation of documents and customer communications. This process will field projects that may include elements such as:
1. Digital Experiences, Account Agreements, Customer Communications, and Statements: Customers should have access to these servicing channels and information, ensuring they clearly understand their situation, options, terms, and conditions of their banking relationship, including what communication they are receiving from the bank about implications of changes or activities.
2. Consumer Disclosures and Terms & Conditions: Important disclosures such as fees, interest rates, and terms should be available as well. While no one likes to read the fine print, it is the most critical information about the relationship one is entering into with the bank. With clear, well-translated content, this information can also encourage the customer to make informed decisions.
3. Applications for loans, cards, and accounts: For customers seeking products from the bank, translated applications simplify the process, reducing barriers to accessing credit or expanding their relationship. Admittedly, this is the biggest frog to swallow for banks in delivering full-scale LEP customer experiences, primarily because this is the step where customers’ expectations may be raised to expect the entirety of the relationship to be in their language of preference. Additionally, the fact that account application platforms are often provided by third parties is what makes technology and robust industry knowledge valuable.
Benefits for Customers
By going beyond regulatory compliance and providing written translations, banks can ensure inclusivity and ease of understanding for all customers. LEP customers benefit by:
- Improved Understanding: Translated documents help customers fully comprehend their financial choices, reducing misunderstandings and potential disputes.
- Empowerment: LEP customers gain confidence in making informed financial decisions, empowering them to navigate the banking system effectively and ensuring that their banking relationship can fulfill their financial and life goals.
- Trust and Loyalty: Banks that invest in language accessibility build trust and loyalty within diverse communities. These “intangibles” may not show on the balance sheet, but are very real elements to growing relationships across LEP communities.
Strategies for Effective Document Translation
Successful document translation involves:
Accuracy: Ensuring translations reflect the intent and meaning of the original document. A language service provider with expertise in the financial services industry can enhance the quality of language-related services by customizing solutions to align with the bank's internal resources and specific workflow requirements. This includes accommodating additional reviews or adjustments as needed to ensure language quality.
Cultural Sensitivity: Recognizing nuances to provide translations that are culturally appropriate. Plays on words, imagery alignment, and other marketing approaches should always take the audience (and channel) into account. Sometimes straight translation is the best path (e.g., terms & conditions, disclosures); other times, a significant cultural adaptation is necessary—primarily in brand and marketing communications.
Accessibility: Making translated documents readily available through various channels, including online and in-branch. Clearly, availability doesn’t happen with everything, everywhere, all at once—but with a coordinated project approach, documents can efficiently be processed for translated and housed in a way that makes them easy access for customer use.
The Complete Language Accessibility Plan
Combining written translations, oral interpretation, staff training, and robust communication strategies, banks can create a robust language accessibility plan that caters to the diverse linguistic needs of their customers. By doing so, they not only fulfill regulatory requirements but also build stronger relationships and trust within their communities. TransPerfect supports small, medium, and large banks; credit unions; and non-bank lenders in all phases of their language-access journeys.
Language accessibility isn’t just a checkbox—it’s a commitment to inclusivity and customer satisfaction. Banks that prioritize it are better positioned to thrive in an increasingly diverse society.