Big isn’t always best, and taking “a boutique approach” or adding “that little extra bit of flexibility and agility” can bring in more business for a language service provider (LSP).
This is especially true in a market where bigger players are consolidating, and during crises such as Covid, according to the Head of Operations at a DACH-based LSP and a Client Relationship Partner at a Montreal-based comms and translation agency, which is interested in acquiring a Québec-based LSP as part of its growth strategy.
Also, there are parallelisms between M&A in the global brewing industry and the global language market, going by the experience of a 20-year FMCG veteran who recently joined an LSP — although “the market dynamics and category drivers are vastly different.”
And when two of the biggest players in the media loc space merge, it creates opportunities, according to the head of the new cloud-based service at a Sweden-based media localizer and tech provider.
M&A aside, there is still a dearth of talent as fewer students graduate with translation degrees — “and those who do are generalists” — when there is a definite talent gap for linguists in the Legal and Pharmaceutical fields.
Paul Di Mauro – LanguageLoop
Paul Di Mauro joined Melbourne-based LSP LanguageLoop as Chief Financial Officer fresh off a 17-year stint at Australian beer giant Carlton & United Breweries. He reports to LanguageLoop CEO, Elizabeth Compton.
As CFO, his job has been to lead finance, end to end, as well as strategy, industry analysis, and various revenue management activities for LanguageLoop since November 15, 2020.
Di Mauro told Slator, “LanguageLoop has experienced a period of growth and, as such, the business has been evolving.” He was hired expressly for his experience across multiple FMCG roles (e.g., sales and marketing finance, supply finance, revenue management, sales and category management) as “the skills are very transferable between FMCG and services.”
That said, “the market dynamics and category drivers are vastly different,” Di Mauro pointed out, but “as a Finance function, there are more similarities than differences in terms of financial deliverables, such as financial reporting and insight through to governance and compliance.”
Asked to compare the heightened M&A activity of the last 24 months in the global brewing industry with recent transformative deals in the language market, the 20-year FMCG veteran said: “Consolidation is often about growth and efficiencies. In the brewing industry, it has been driven by big players in mature markets seeking to expand in order to gain access to new and emerging markets, geographies, and technologies. This consolidation led to increased scale, which drove cost out through lower input cost to serve, better efficiencies, and learnings across businesses and geographies.”
He added that in the language market, especially in Australia, there is still lots of room for organic growth. “We have one of the most ethnically diverse populations and there is large potential for this industry to have higher levels of participation and engagement with both individuals and businesses” through healthy competition, innovation, and more tech uptake.
In his view, “Strong players in the industry can play a key role in driving market growth, which will ultimately benefit the entire industry.” As for LanguageLoop, M&A “is not a key strategic priority” in 2021.
At present, LanguageLoop’s customer base combines government and corporate clients from the Health, Education, Banking, Telecoms, Utilities, and Insurance sectors. Aside from translation, the LSP also offers 24/7 telephone interpreting, video, and localized digital solutions in over 180 languages.
According to Di Mauro, last year saw “accelerated demand across all clients for digital solutions,” including telephone and video interpreting (while on-site interpreting was adversely affected) — a trend they expect to continue in 2021.
Philipp Ursprung – Apostroph
Philipp Ursprung joined Apostroph Group in the dual role of Head of Operations for Apostroph Zurich and Head of Translation Technology for Apostroph Group on December 1, 2020. (The role was previously held by Patricia Kamer, who joined Supertext in the summer of 2020.)
Ursprung reports to Karin Heinzer-Achermann, Group Head of Operations at the DACH-focused LSP. He is responsible for a team of project managers who serve clients primarily from the larger Zurich area. He also works with Group management, in-house software developers, and external tech partners to deliver on the company’s translation technology strategy.
“A strong focus is on productizing our proprietary machine translation (MT) solution,” he said, with particular emphasis on terminology and corporate language.
Ursprung is a six-year Credit Suisse veteran, where his last post was Head of PM and Translation Technology. He told Slator, “I was looking for a job back in my hometown of Zurich. After spending quite a few years on the buy side, I wanted to change to the LSP side as I think these are exciting times working for a midsize player.”
He said his experience with MTPE integrations within internal language services groups at large organizations plus Apostroph’s MT focus made it “a good match.”
Ursprung believes that having its own proprietary tools is important for an LSP to succeed in today’s market. He said, because Apostroph runs its own TMS, they are able to tailor it to serve clients, some of whom have remained customers for nearly two decades. On the other hand, “integrating with a large number of tools, especially with customers’ CMSs, is becoming even more important.” Hence, the company’s investment in a team of in-house developers.
His read on current market consolidation — which includes Apostroph’s acquisition of Global Translations and USG in 2020 — is that midsize players have an edge in terms of “that little extra bit of flexibility and agility.”
He said, “Especially in a market like Switzerland, where we serve a number of quite different verticals with different requirements, flexibility is very important. My experience on the buy-side was that you tend to get more flexibility from the not-so-big players. I would say that holds especially true during Covid.”
Ursprung added, however, that tech advancements plus continued market consolidation “will put further pressure on rates and margins. As a result, pressure on productivity rises as well, and it is important for midsize players to get their technology and processes up to the latest standards […] to stay on top of things.”
Asked what he thinks about LSPs moving into the data annotation space, he replied, “I think this is a logical step for large LSPs, but I find it hard to imagine this will be a big business for a company like Apostroph in the very near future.”
Apostroph’s focus in 2021: expanding their PEMT offer and providing consulting services for their clients.
Tobias Mannheimer – Plint
Tobias Mannheimer joined Plint as Head of Plint Direct on January 7, 2021. He reports to Per Nauclér, co-founder of the Sweden-based media localizer and tech provider, who also serves as Head of Business Development.
Plint Direct is the company’s new cloud-based localization service that primarily targets corporate clients. It is a homecoming of sorts for Mannheimer, who worked with Plint when it was still known as Nordisk Undertext.
He told Slator, “A lot has changed since I left in 2013 […] Plint is a much bigger company now, with clients like Netflix and Viacom, but has also climbed the value chain and is delivering software for localization, which puts us in another division. The scope is also much more international today.”
So what’s the game plan in terms of building a lead funnel in the time of Covid? According to Mannheimer, it will include webinars, instructional videos, digital marketing, as well as traditional sales through Teams or Zoom. “An important part will also be to convert existing corporate clients in order for them to use the new service and spread the gospel,” he added.
Asked for his take on the Iyuno-SDI deal, Mannheimer replied, “When the two biggest players in a market merge, that creates opportunities. I think that companies are weary of putting all their eggs in the same basket — so where SDI and Iyuno overlap, there might be opportunities.”
Sylvain Boutin – Dyade
Sylvain Boutin joined Dyade as Client Relationship Partner on September 8, 2020. He reports to Danielle Guilbault, Vice President of the Montréal-based creative communications and language services agency. As CRP, Boutin is tasked with developing new client relationships as well as supporting existing ones in daily tandem with the Director of Operations and Project Managers.
Boutin described Dyade as “a one-stop-shop for creative and technical copywriting, voice-over and subtitling, branding strategy, and graphic design.”
He said the linguistic services line of the business has been expanding, “as the quality of our deliverables allowed us to achieve steady year-over-year growth for the past 15 years. As an essential service, we have not seen a significant drop in volumes, but have noticed a reorganization in the PR and tourism sectors.”
Boutin told Slator that the Legal and Financial sectors have always been Dyade’s primary areas of focus for language services, and this continued through Covid. He added, “Dyade is highly regarded in the Animal Health industry as well. Demand in the Marketing and Retail has waxed and waned since March 2020, but is now close to normal.”
Asked where he sees gaps in the market in terms of talent supply vs. demand, he replied, “Prior to the pandemic, Québec had reached full employment. Despite changes in the job market, specialized resources are still hard to come by. Fewer students graduate with a translation degree, and those who do are generalists. There is definitely a need for linguists specialized in the legal and pharmaceutical industries, among others.”
With Boutin’s years of experience working at several LSPs (most notably SDL and Donnelly), his take on recent market consolidation is this: “Change will be felt both at the employee and client level. System integration will require manhours and may impact productivity. There is always the risk of losing significant talent, with morale already being low due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Merging companies with overlapping accounts might also disrupt some clients’ contingency plans and drive them to shop for different providers, which can present opportunities for smaller firms.”
He said clients have told him that biggest does not always mean best and Dyade has focused on cultivating “a boutique approach.” Boutin added, “We would also be interested in acquiring a Québec-based translation firm as part of our growth strategy.”