At Fisher Investments, Localization Drives Revenue Through Client Retention

Investment management firm Fisher Investments generated a translation volume of about two million words in 2019. The actual volume of localized content, however, is much higher, according to Localization Manager Celia Plowright.

“The European client base is growing quickly and, as we serve clients in a wider range of countries and languages, we expect annual translation volumes to grow,” Plowright told Slator. “It is critical for us to maintain a centralized, consolidated localization function in order to achieve that client growth and maintain quality.“

Fisher currently localizes content from English into 13 other languages, the largest volumes coming from European languages (Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish). Translations into Korean, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, and Japanese make up the rest.

The Translation Team sits within the firm’s Content and Communications Group, which, in turn, is part of the Corporate Services Department. Translation works very closely with the firm’s Service, Sales, Marketing, and Compliance; and, in addition to sales and marketing collaterals, Plowright’s team localizes materials for client events, video content, and internal communications.

“Working closely with our International Content Team, which is responsible for creating our content in English and carrying out desktop publishing work before localized content is published and distributed, is critical to our success,” Plowright said.

“We have tried to reduce the burden on native-speaking SMEs for internal revision with the development of the internal translation team. Previously, it was a time-consuming step in the workflow…”

She added, “Many people don’t realize that effective translation requires much more than swapping one word for another. That would result in original documents being sapped of life in translation, leaving a final product that is technically correct but boring and difficult to read. Our approach enables us to work closely with internal requesters to deliver high-quality, localized materials tailored to our clients’ needs. Likewise, this specialization of labor allows our linguists to focus on translation and our International Content Team to focus on creating client educational materials.”

The Fisher Translation Team currently comprises seven people: five in-house Translators, one Project Coordinator and Plowright, who reports to Naj Srinivas, Global Head of Content and Client Communications.

Plowright, who joined the company in August 2018, recalled that Srinivas and she “spent the first year building out the team and finding the right language resources, both internally and externally.” Right now, their focus has shifted to optimizing localization processes and technology.

Celia Plowright Fisher Investments
Celia Plowright

Plowright earned a degree in Hispanic Studies from University College London and spent time studying abroad in Argentina, where she got her first localization job as a project manager for a boutique agency in Buenos Aires, and “learned the foundational skills required for effective project management and language procurement.”

“In 2014, I moved back to London and decided to find a role on the buy-side as Localization Operations Manager at online trading platform IG,” she said. While there, she helped build a centralized team of Translators and Content Editors.

Today, as Group Manager of the Fisher Translation Team, she handles all aspects of localization at the firm. “This includes personnel decisions, like hiring and human capital development for our in-house translation team, vendor procurement and relationships, and task management across the team,” Plowright said.

How Translation Helps Fulfill Fisher’s Mission

The work of the Translation Team begins when it receives English-language content from the International Content Team or other requestors at the firm. The request is then ranked based on difficulty and priority.

According to Plowright, they have two main workflows. “The first is internal translation by a member of our team followed by subject matter expert (SME) review,” she said. “The second is external translation with one of our language partners, followed by internal linguist and SME review.”

Establishing an internal translation team has actually reduced the burden on native-speaking SMEs for internal revision. As Plowright noted, “Previously, it was a time-consuming step in the workflow and it was difficult to establish a feedback loop between SMEs and our external language partners. The internal team can still rely on support from SMEs, especially for technical or terminology queries, but we are working to streamline this step.”

Next is desktop publishing, which varies according to content type. For materials where the source is Adobe InDesign (e.g., brochures), the translated files are delivered to the International Content Team and, from there, Plowright’s team completes Language Sign-Off or LSO.

“We have a mixed model, working with one to two multi-language vendors, several LSPs, and individual freelancers. We find this approach provides flexibility…”

Plowright said they recently added a Project Coordinator role. “When we first started the team, we experimented with having linguists handle project management along with their normal translation responsibilities. We quickly found that this wasn’t sustainable as our project volume increased. By specializing and assigning these project management responsibilities to a single coordinator, we have also enabled linguists to focus on translation tasks. This is very much a part of Fisher’s philosophy of labor specialization.” The result, a more effective team that produces high quality translations quickly and cost-effectively.

Asked how they measure translation quality, Plowright replied, “It is partly through qualitative feedback from our SMEs. This is particularly important when new linguists join our team so they learn about the Fisher tone of voice and capital markets terminology. We are also rolling out language quality assurance (LQA) with our external translators, so there is a feedback loop between our team and external linguists. The reporting dashboard in our TMS enables us to track issues and error types more consistently in order to objectively measure vendor performance and provide linguists with more insightful feedback.”

Flexibility: Technical Translation to Transcreation

Establishing an internal team also changed the way the firm outsources translations. “At the start of 2019, around 70% of language tasks were outsourced. This has dropped to around 30–45% over the last six months. As we continue to build out our team we expect to continue to evaluate our use of external localization vendors,” Plowright said.

They use a mixed model, she said, “working with one to two multi-language vendors, several language service providers, and individual freelancers.” This approach allows flexibility in matching “the right linguist to an internal client’s needs and a wide range of content types.”

“Everyone at the firm believes that quality, localized content is necessary to deliver excellent client service and education.”

She explained, “For example, some texts have more technical capital markets language and require highly experienced financial linguists to translate them well. Other texts require transcreation and a more creative skillset. We assign projects to our localization partners based on our experience working with them and our assessment of their capabilities.”

So how does Fisher view its investment in localization?

Although localization is regarded as a cost center for purposes of internal tracking, “everyone at the firm believes that quality, localized content is necessary to deliver excellent client service and education. Therefore, content localization can also be a key component of driving revenue for the business through client retention,” Plowright said.

“One of the great things about working for an independent, privately held company is that we don’t need to be tied to arbitrary ROI targets with regard to our localization. While we want to be cognizant of our costs, our main focus is producing the highest quality, translated client materials,” she concluded.