Financial transactions are daunting; supplying translated banking documents for your limited English proficient (LEP) customers is the single best thing you can do to help them do business with you.
LEP consumers face unique challenges in accessing financial products, understanding financial documents, and resolving issues with financial institutions.”
— Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
In short, your potential LEP customers are struggling to get the information they need. Even the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) knows this. And they have released a set of guidelines for financial institutions.
Are they helpful guidelines? Yes.
Are they clear? Not exactly.
Why regional banks are leading the way in multilingual banking
The CFPB has noted a big trend:
“. . . nationwide institutions largely focus on serving Spanish-speaking consumers, while regional institutions typically align language services with local demographics.”
On a national level, there are 350 languages spoken in the U.S. That is a tall order.
But on a regional level, where banks know their communities, the language mix is clear and finite. Score one for regional banks!
This is where you come in.
What can you do to help? To set your financial services apart?
The Dodd-Frank lens for LEP customers
The Dodd-Frank Act focuses on “fair, equitable, and nondiscriminatory access to credit.”
So one helpful way to look at your role is this: If you were an LEP consumer, what information would YOU need to understand your banking options and services?
Once you decide on that, translate those documents.
Here are the financial marketing materials you should translate
The goal should be to make it clear what you are offering, how you will support them, and what they can expect. It may sound almost too simple on the surface, but if you do this, you are making significant headway.
Some of these will be a quick turn, while others will take a bit longer.
Don’t try to do them all at once, since larger projects seem easier to derail. Start small. Slow and steady wins the race.
On-site signage and documents to translate
- Bank hours and services
- If you have an on-site bilingual teller, branch manager, loan officer, and/or notary public
- That you provide phone or video interpreting services and in what languages
- A flyer with the basics about your checking and savings account options
- A flyer with links or QR codes for other translated resources such as online FAQs, customer service lines, disclosure documents, etc.
Website content to translate
- Online “Contact Us” form
- Your bank’s routing number
- Phone number for the call center and any special instructions for accessing phone interpretation support (if you are using a phone or video interpretation vendor)
- Explanation of your loan application process and document requirements
- Translated FAQs
Disclosure documents to translate
- Account agreement
- Policy for funds availability and overdrafts
- Online and mobile banking agreements
- Credit card and debit card agreements
- Truth in Lending / Truth in Savings disclosures
- Rate sheets and fee schedules
Don’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to translated financial documents
The CFPB has some great resources and recommendations for translating content around mortgage and loan disclosures, closing documents, credit reporting, and debt collection. You can take a look at the CFPB list to kick-start your translated financial content on those topics. (And don’t forget to nail down telephone interpreting services!)
Note: No federal law expressly mandates that institutions conduct origination discussions in languages other than English. Yet, the requirements and limitations of the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) can be fairly strict when interacting with LEP borrowers. And many states (hello, California) have their own guidelines. It is likely you are aware of your own state’s requirements, but here is a very helpful overview of the LEP lending landscape.