ATC Language Industry Summit 2019

ben
Ben at the venue

Last week Ben Ablett, our Head of Sales at Marketing visited Greenwich to attend ATC’s Language Industry Summit. These are his thoughts on the event.

 

The weather was perfect, the venue was inspiring and the programme for the two days looked very promising. This was my first Language Industry Summit and first impressions certainly did not disappoint.

The two days were packed full of thought-provoking presentations and in-depth discussions covering all corners of the industry. Each session offered something new which helped to keep the agenda fresh and the delegates energized. For me, the highlights were as follows:

 Dominic Graham De Montrose from Deloitte

Dominic kicked off day one with a detailed insight in to global merger and acquisition (M&A) trends. I was initially sceptical about the relevance of this session but it soon captured the interest of my inner analyst! The relevance became apparent as Dominic drilled down in to more specific trends and focused on the UK, specifically the volume of cross border M&A deals involving a UK party. Year on year, the UK has consistently come out on top of the rest of Europe for its number of cross border deals, averaging more than the next top three countries combined. Clearly, despite our own uncertainty around Brexit, UK industry is still viewed as a very attractive investment on a global scale, perhaps all is not lost after all!

Guy Bartlett from Business Buyers Club

Continuing the theme of M&A, Guy walked us through some great tips on the best ways to approach a new acquisition as a means of business growth. Guy’s wealth of experience in this field made buying a business without using any cash sound easy using various asset financing solutions. Although I was left thinking a change of career may be in order, the point of the session was to highlight that growth doesn’t just come from increased sales or developing new products/services. There are other ways, and they needn’t be as complicated as we think or require large amounts of cash to get off the ground.

Doug Lawrence from Selling Translations

Doug captured everyone’s attention with his charismatic presenting style. This session focused on the importance and benefits of including a local strategy in your wider sales plan. This really resonated with me as the reason that pharmaceutical translations are now such a big part of what we do at First Edition Translations is because we started local. Way back in our early years First Edition only had a local reach but we were fortunate enough to be based in Cambridge and, as a result, had many pharma and biotech companies on our doorstep. This allowed us to become specialists in this field and has helped us gain an international footprint today. It is easy to lose sight of the importance of local business once your company grows beyond your own city limits but its often part of the reason for your growth so don’t leave it behind.

Judy King from BBC Monitoring

Judy provided a truly fascinating overview of the work of BBC Monitoring and the amount of effort and expertise required to translate and analyse the constant flow of global media. The session was primarily about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine translation (MT) and Judy presented a case study of how AI has been implemented to benefit their linguists rather than replace them. MT gets a lot of bad press in the language industry for its shortcomings or the fear that it will render linguists redundant, this tends to be as a result of its improper use or a lack of appreciation for how it can be applied. The case study was as quick to point out AI’s current flaws as well as its benefits, understanding these is vital in order to achieve an effective application of the technology. The key is finding a balance between artificial and human intelligence and using each for what it does best so that the two may complement each other. Judy was very clear that machine translated content should never be published and that the need for a human linguist is still very much essential.

Raisa McNab ATC CEO and Doug Lawrence from Selling Translations

Doug took to the floor again, this time with the ATC’s CEO Raisa McNab, to talk about the dreaded B word.

The ATC have been awarded a UK Government grant worth £27,500 to assist language service companies in preparing for the UK’s eventual exit from the European Union. This session was an open discussion forum to help steer this process by brining to the forefront what language companies need most in the coming months.

It was apparent from the delegates that there was a great deal of uncertainty. However, somewhat surprisingly, not a great deal of worry. The general concessions were that our businesses could adapt and take on whatever lies ahead, we would simply like a little more clarity as to what that might be, so that we can prepare accordingly.

Comments from the international contingent pointed out that businesses outside of the EU manage to survive and that many of the EU-domiciled businesses present traded with customers outside of the EU with little or no difficulty. A no-deal Brexit would not make trading with a business in an EU member state dramatically different to a business anywhere else in the world. This was a view that seemed to be widely shared amongst the delegation.

The concerns that came up focused more on the rights of our linguists rather than our ability to trade cross border. These queries highlighted the level of involvement the ATC has at a Government level in lobbying for changes to legislation for the benefit of our industry such as its work with the Migration Advisory Committee to protect the jobs of linguists post-Brexit.

In conclusion

What I particularly liked about the summit was that amongst its widely varied programme was a continuous underlying theme of positivity which I found to be rather refreshing in the current environment of uncertainty. The messages that came through loud and clear were that our industry is thriving, demand continues to grow and there are numerous opportunities for us to grow too, things that are often perceived as threats needn’t be feared and can actually help us, and that even the supposed impending doom of Brexit doesn’t actually pose a significant risk.

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