The Role of Machine Translation in Financial Compliance


The financial industry has to comply with stringent regulations like MiFID II, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOA), and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) that regulate the collection, use, and storage of private financial information. The laws enforce transparency, strict record-keeping, and regular audits, regardless of geography. 

Financial organizations operating globally have to meet regulatory requirements even for translated documents. The onus is higher as they must ensure records are legally accurate in the foreign language and data is protected even during the translation process.

This article looks at the compliance requirements for translation in the finance industry. We also look at how machine translation technology can support the process.

Compliance considerations for financial translation

Financial companies must routinely translate balance sheets, annual reports, business plans, fund prospectuses, contracts, financial statements, and more. Without going into the details of every regulation, we can broadly say that all translations must meet the following criteria for compliance.

Data privacy protection

Most financial documents inevitably contain sensitive personal information such as names, account details, tax information, and contact details. Without proper security, the data can easily fall into the wrong hands, resulting in serious consequences for customers, partners, and employees. 

Financial data accuracy

Financial documents contain complex numerical information with various symbols that international speakers may interpret differently. However, error margins are 0% if you want to meet compliance. Even a tiny error can have a big impact. 

Time sensitivity 

Time is essential in financial activity, and translations must meet strict deadlines to be useful. Delayed reports and account statements can lead to economic losses and losses in both investor and shareholder trust.

Challenges of Machine translation in Financial compliance

Meeting the three criteria of data protection, financial data accuracy, and time sensitivity brings several challenges to the translation process.

Complex terminology

Complex financial terminology can be misinterpreted or lost in translation, leading to incorrect decision-making. Also, numerical formats, decimals, and comma-separators in numbers vary from country to country. Even experienced human translators can make minute mistakes, resulting in big losses.
For example, HSBC Australian mistranslated an ‘m’ in a foreign exchange transaction to the English M, indicating a million. However, the ‘m’ in the foreign language stood for thousands and should have been translated as ‘th’. Unfortunately, the error resulted in a $10 Million transfer that took weeks for the bank to get back.

Limited choice in technical software

Translators in the finance sector cannot access free online translation tools to speed up their work. The risk of using these tools is too high and usually fails compliance standards.

For example, ​​a translated staff performance report of an investment bank in Norway became publicly available on Google because the team used free online software for translating the document. The bank ended up dealing with a million-dollar lawsuit because employee identities were stolen and misused. Eventually, it blocked access to both the free software and Google Translate.

More manual work

Preparing and reviewing original and translated financial documents is time-consuming and tedious. It is challenging to integrate with existing automation workflows. For example, instead of pulling data from a database, a human translator may have to manually enter information in the correct format in the translated document. Translation costs also increase significantly due to the time, effort, and expertise needed.

For example, consider a U.S. firm that wishes to purchase several million yen from a Japanese firm. They have fixed an exchange rate as of today and agreed to draw up contracts. Unfortunately, delays in translating contracts and invoicing documents push the purchase forward by several weeks. In the meantime, the Japanese yen has climbed significantly, and the Japanese firm is  no longer willing to purchase at the old rate. The US firm ends up losing thousands of dollars on the updated exchange rate.

How machine translation helps meet compliance in finance

Machine translation uses the latest AI advances to speed up translation workflows without compromising compliance. 

End-to-end data protection for Machine translation in Financial compliance

You can deploy enterprise-grade machine translation software on IT infrastructure fully controlled by you.  where your data resides and who can access what documents throughout the translation process. It is also possible to train the MT software on internal data for fine-tuning, translate any document, and integrate it with existing IT systems while meeting all data governance requirements.

Translate detailed information at scale

Many financial regulations require banks, traders, and asset managers to report detailed transaction information daily—this could be millions of daily transactions for large companies. MT can translate this information automatically and quickly so reports are available to auditors in their language of choice. They can also use it to translate information in bulk for investors, customers, and government authorities.

Train employees for machine translation in financial compliance

Compliance requires you to establish best practices and processes throughout your organization. Global financial companies can educate all their employees on different rules by creating E-learning curricula and other training material in multiple languages so everyone follows regulatory requirements across the board.

Increase response time

Despite best efforts, any business process may have some accidental compliance violations. MT can translate documents like software logs, staff communication, and customer service records for faster incident analysis and investigation. You can respond quickly to any potential violations with a more effective response.


The financial industry must comply with frequently changing regulations and maintain the highest data security standards in every aspect. Multi-lingual communication is critical for meeting regulatory requirements while ensuring global reach. 

While human expertise is essential, machine translation can significantly support and speed up financial translation efforts. It can translate documents in bulk while maintaining consistency across terminology. However, it must be deployed securely to meet data protection and privacy laws.

SYSTRAN  is the finance sector’s most comprehensive on-premise machine translation solution. You can run bulk document translation in a combination of 55+ language without data ever leaving your infrastructure.


Benjamin - Data Security Specialist
4 Min Read
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