There’s not one organization or enterprise that can function without the reassuring power of finance to back it up. When you deal with large amounts of financial data daily, the data must get transcribed quickly and accurately. That’s where financial transcription comes in!
Creating quality and error-free financial transcripts requires plenty of knowledge about financial terms, and sharp attention to catch numbers while various people are speaking or distracting background noises. After all, missing or switching one or two digits in a transcript can result in an entirely different interpretation.
That’s why when choosing the best financial transcription service for you, it’s crucial to know what to look for and what to avoid.
When considering and comparing providers, it can be pretty overwhelming. We’ve created this article to help educate you on what the perfect financial transcription provider should offer.
Table of Contents
- What Is Financial Transcription and Why Is it so Critical?
- Reasons to Care About Financial Transcription Errors
- Benefits of Outsourcing Financial Transcription
- What Are the Types of Financial Transcription and Who Needs Them?
- Privacy and Security in Financial Transcription
- What Qualifications Should Financial Transcriptionists Have?
- The Financial Transcription Process
- Questions to Ask Your Financial Transcription Provider
- Downloadable PDF of Questions to Ask Your Transcription Provider
- What’s Next?
What Is Financial Transcription and Why Is it so Critical?
The simple definition of financial transcription would be “creating high-quality transcripts dealing with financial data from audio and video recordings.” In short, financial transcription does not exclusively entail transcribing word per word. Financial transcriptionists actually create a range of documents for you like analysis and company reports based on the data you give.
Corporate organizations and other firms often use financial transcripts to discuss the firm’s financial health at business meetings, seminars, annual meetings, and so on. Businesses who have transcribed financial records dating back to three years can get a clear idea of their economic progression by comparing documents.
As far as the process, financial transcription is similar to other transcription — the audio or video file is recorded, transcribed, and then sent back to you.
The big difference lies behind the volume of numbers spoken. Files that financial transcription companies often transcribe include sales reports, income reports, investor meetings, and more.
One error can throw off an entire spreadsheet and cause major inaccuracy in all of your totals.
Reasons to Care About Financial Transcription Errors
“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it.” — Benjamin Franklin.
Financial transcription errors… What’s the worst that can happen?
Financial transcription is used by the thousands of publicly-traded companies in the US to meet and comply with reporting requirements. As mentioned above, one error in the financial transcript or something specifically complicated and thorough, like a spreadsheet, can cause incorrect totals.
It’s reported that close to 90% of spreadsheets contain errors and that approximately 50% of spreadsheets used operationally by large businesses have material defects.
These material defects have caused companies all over the world to lose billions of dollars.
Money aside, why else should you care?
- Your business relies on financial data to make critical business decisions.
- Errors can damage your business’s reputation.
- Sharing inaccurate transcripts can cause trust issues with partners and investors.
- Inconsistent/inaccurate data entries.
Still not convinced?
The company well known as Fidelity Magellan Fund was forced into canceling a $4.32/share year-end dividend distribution. What happened? A tax accountant missed a negative sign when they transcribed the net capital loss of $1.3 billion from the fund’s financial record and spreadsheet. This turned the loss into a gain, resulting in the dividend estimate to be inaccurate by $2.6 billion.
A cut and paste error in a spreadsheet for TransAlta cost the company $24 million. The mistake resulted in the Canadian power generator buying more US power transmission hedging contracts at a highly inflated rate.
Why do Such Bad Financial Transcription Errors Occur?
Transcription errors can occur for all sorts of reasons. The transcriptionist could be a non-native English speaker, making it challenging for them to make out numbers or specific vocabulary in niche contexts. It could also be that the person in charge of transcribing has had a long day and can’t focus. Or, they chose the less expensive route that many businesses take: AI transcription.
The truth is, AI speech recognition transcription is drastically improving each year, although a major drawback is this software only learns after a mistake is made and corrected. This technology still has a long road ahead to reach the accuracy human transcription can. Descript did a test study on the different AI speech recognition transcription softwares on the market today.
Here were the WER (Word Error Rate) results:
With a WER of 16%, Google Speech (Video) was the most accurate AI transcription app. Interestingly, Google Speech (Standard) came in the last place, with a 37% WER standard. Why the difference? Google offers different versions for audio files and video files.
Google notes the Standard model is best for general transcription, for example, single-speaker long-form audio. On the other hand, Video is better at transcribing multiple speakers. However, Descript’s study found that Video is much better at everything, even audiobook samples with single speakers. And Google charges twice as much for it.
Google Speech’s word error rate of 16% is still pretty drastic, especially when real human transcription companies have an average word error rate of 1%.
A 16% chance of error equals an accuracy rate of 84%, or to put it in another way, 240 errors per every 1,500 words.
In fact, going through your AI transcribed document to catch all errors will cost you a lot of work and time, especially when numbers are thrown into it. A US-based, native English speaking transcription provider guarantees a 99% accuracy, which equals about 15 errors per 1,500 words.
Want to learn more about AI vs. human transcription? Read this article.
Benefits of Outsourcing Financial Transcription
More financial institutions and other companies needing financial transcription are experiencing the major benefits from finding the right transcription provider.
Possibly the most significant benefit is that the transcribed document gets sent back to you in a condition that’s ready to use right away.
What other benefits will you experience from a reliable financial transcription provider?
They’ll Meet Your Deadlines
Do you run on tight deadlines? Files pile up, and it can be stressful to get them transcribed and put away before they take over your desk. Plus, you have a thousand other things to do. Sorting through everything and transcribing yourself sometimes isn’t an option.
Financial transcription companies know how busy you are. That’s why they’re here to help you meet harsh deadlines without compromising the transcript’s quality and accuracy.
Most financial transcription providers even offer same-day transcripts. Depending on the staff available at the time of your request and the type of file you need transcribed, the document can be sent back to you in as little as 3 hours.
If you’re not in a rush, the average turnaround time is three to five days. That includes everything like timestamps, speaker recognition, requested layout, and 99% accuracy.
Bulk files or long audio recordings (100+ hours) can take longer, sometimes six to ten days.
To ensure the financial transcription provider can meet your deadlines, ask the company about their average turnaround times. You should assess your current and future needs, and see if the company can meet your deadlines now, and when you get a sudden rush file later on.
The Transcriptionists Sign an NDA
Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are an essential legal framework used to protect sensitive and confidential data from being made available by the recipient of that information. Many companies and startups use an NDA to ensure their original ideas don’t get stolen by the people they are negotiating with. Likewise, financial institutions and similar companies use them to keep financial information protected.
The agreement states that the receiver of data (transcriptionist) shall maintain the confidential information in the strictest confidence for the Disclosing Party’s sole and exclusive benefit. In simpler words, anyone that hasn’t signed the agreement shouldn’t have access to the document, nor can the transcriptionist verbally share information. This includes other staff, friends, and family members.
Another key point states the agreement continues until the confidential information no longer qualifies as a secret or until the disclosing party sends a written notice releasing the transcription service from this agreement.
A reliable financial transcription service should be very familiar with NDAs and have no problem signing them if you ask.
Financial Transcription Is Affordable
Most companies understandably don’t have a massive budget for transcription. Hiring an in-house transcriptionist is more expensive than outsourcing because you are responsible for wages, benefits, equipment, training and hiring. According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for an in-house transcriptionist is $40,426 per year in the US.
When you outsource files, you aren’t responsible for any of this. The general financial transcription service rates range between $1.50 and $5.00 per audio minute depending on the number of speakers, audio quality, and turnaround time requested.
To put it into perspective, if you have one weekly conference that usually lasts 40 minutes, you’ll pay $400/month, which adds to $4,800 per year. Of course, you may have more or fewer transcription needs, however, it’s highly unlikely those needs will exceed 40K per year.
Accuracy is the most crucial factor to consider when choosing a financial transcription service. It can be tedious work to decipher numbers.
The average accuracy a transcription service should provide is 99%. Even better, they should have a guarantee that you will get your money back if the accuracy rate isn’t met.
Generally, high accuracy rates are promised when the editing is taken seriously. Your document should be sent to a QA (quality assurance) team after the transcriptionist has done edits to be double-checked by transcription editing professionals.
The point of outsourcing your transcription work is getting your files back error-free and ready to use. You shouldn’t have to spend valuable time fixing mistakes or worrying about presenting something inaccurate in tomorrow’s meeting.
Use Your Firm’s Talented Staff in Profitable Areas
Every staff within a firm has a talent used to increase the business’s profitability. If not, why did you hire them? Those staff should focus on what they’re good at. Adding transcription duties to their plate could cause them to work overtime, focus on the wrong things, and be less productive at their jobs overall. Assigning a transcription project to someone without trained grammar and listening skills could result in a transcript riddled with errors. Outsourcing your financial transcription to a transcription service takes away the burden on your employees.
What Are the Types of Financial Transcription and Who Needs Them?
Here’s a list of the different types of financial transcription:
- Analyst Reports
- Annual Meetings
- Financial Reports
- Investor Relations
- Market Research Reports
- Boardroom Meetings
- Earnings Calls
- Internal Company Calls
- Marketing Reports
- Focus Groups
- Business Plans
- Client Newsletters
- Insurance matters
- Training Seminars
- Group Discussions
- Video Calls
There’s also several related topics that can be transcribed such as:
- Conference calls
- Press conferences
- Business Surveys
- Client notes
- Sales/business meetings
- Company reports
Large and small businesses use financial transcription, including merchant banks, regulatory bodies, trading firms, investment agencies, investment counselors, financial advisors, and even schools.
Are you wondering if financial transcription is right for you? The provider you choose should ask for the details of your project before handing it to one of their transcriptionists. Once they evaluate the project, they’ll put you in the right transcription category and match you with a qualified transcriptionist.
Privacy and Security in Financial Transcription
While technology makes it easy to transfer files through the internet, it also creates opportunities for hackers to get a hold of financial and other sensitive information.
Hacking is an ongoing problem. Each year hacker sophistication is getting better and better, and companies are failing to implement enough protection. In 2014, Sony had large amounts of data stolen, including information about an unreleased film, The Interview, which resulted in an international incident with North Korea. And in 2013, Target’s customer information was stolen, costing the company millions.
According to a report by Javelin, “2016 will be remembered as a banner year for fraudsters as numerous measures of identity fraud reached new heights.” 2016 was so significant that the fraud cases affected 6.15% of US citizens with identity theft.
The point is, your financial transcription service needs to take the proper security measures to keep your data from being hacked.
Here’s what to look for when searching the provider’s commitment to security:
- Scaled network redundancy
- Visual private network (VPN) integration
- Dedicated secure data centers
- SSL 256-bit secure encryption
- Secure FTP (SFTP) servers
What does each of these mean?
Scaled Network Redundancy
Network redundancy is a duplicated infrastructure. The additional or alternate instances of network devices and connections are installed to ensure an alternate path in case of a primary service failure.
So, in simpler words, if one device fails, the other one will immediately take over. The overlap leaves no time for hackers to get in.
Virtual Private Network (VPN) Integration
A virtual private network (VPN) provides secure remote access. It can help prevent unauthorized access to a company’s network and sensitive data. It also hides your IP address and makes your connection to the internet more secure overall.
VPNs work by using several layers of technology, including point-to-point tunneling, secure sockets layer, transport layer security, internet protocol security, layer two tunneling protocol, and multiprotocol label switching.
Dedicated Secure Data Centers
Data center security is the set of policies, practices, and precautions to avoid unauthorized access and manipulation of a data center’s resources.
The security controls and system checks are built layer by layer into the structure of your data center. These layers protect the physical building, the software systems, and all of the people involved.
The layers can be made physical or digital. Let’s take a look at both below:
Physical security is to protect data in the transcription offices. Here are some physical data center security standards:
- Server cabinets fitted with a lock.
- More than one supplier for telecom and electricity.
- Extra power backup systems like UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) and generators.
- Physical access controls.
- Video and entry logs.
- Regular security audits.
On the other hand, digital layers of security are to protect digital data. Some digital security standards include:
- Virtual firewalls.
- Network segmentation.
- Virtualized private networks and encrypted communications.
- Traffic or NetFlow analyzers and isolators.
- Content, packet, network, spam, and virus filtering.
Combining these technologies and following the best practices makes it virtually impossible for hackers to steal data.
SSL 256-Bit Secure Encryption
256-bit encryption is a data/file encryption technique that uses a 256-bit key to encrypt and decrypt data or files. It’s used in modern encryption algorithms, protocols, and technologies including SSL.
Encryption is very confusing to many, and to make it more simple, here’s an explanation:
John sends his unencrypted file to his transcription provider. While the file is traveling to the provider, an algorithm or cipher will be implemented which scrambles the text, making the data unusable to hackers. Once the data reaches the transcription provider, the file will decrypt itself with a key.
Only people with the key have access to the plain text, so as long as a hacker doesn’t get a hold of the key, the file stays safe.
Secure FTP (SFTP) Servers
A secure FTP server supports actions involving files, including transfers with multiple files, remote file management activities, creation of directories, and deletions related to directories and directory listings. A secure FTP server also helps with protocols such as encryption, authentication, data integrity, data management, and access control mechanisms.
Your data security is highly essential. Make sure the financial transcription provider you choose implements and practices all of the safety features above. If they don’t, they could be putting your data at serious risk of a confidentiality breach.
What Qualifications Should Financial Transcriptionists Have?
Financial transcriptionists have the same requirements as general transcriptionists.
While a college degree isn’t necessary, general transcriptionists do need some coursework. Most transcriptionists take courses at community colleges where they do practicums or take classes online. Transcriptionists who want to specialize in legal or medical transcription must take specialty classes. However, financial transcriptionists are only required to have general transcriptionist coursework.
There are several ways your transcriptionist can grow their knowledge and skills, including taking grammar courses, studying financial jargon and terms, practicing typing speed and transcription with example audio files, and improving MS Word skills.
The key difference between financial and other types of transcription is the listening skills needed as financial transcription involves many numbers that might be hard to make out.
Financial transcriptionists also deal with files that come from every industry. For example, earnings calls from Chinese farming companies talk about farming equipment, fertilizer, pivot sprinklers, and other information that isn’t standard common knowledge.
They need to do a lot of research to make sure they are using the right spellings, acronyms, and everything else. This can be very taxing and take more time because of the research going into each file. In fact, most financial transcriptionists are college-educated, and that’s where they learned how to do fast and thorough research.
Most transcription services have general transcriptionists with experience and even specialize in financial transcription. The transcription service should review your needs and match you with the best and most experienced transcriptionist for the job. From there, you can communicate the format needed and any specific details directly with your transcriptionist.
The Financial Transcription Process
The financial transcription process mostly follows the route of general transcription. After you select a provider to work with, you send your files, and the transcription team will work fast and accurately to get your files back to you in your requested format and deadline.
You may want the company to sign an NDA. This step is before the transcription process starts. Ensure the company is more than comfortable doing so because you don’t want your firm’s financial information getting into the wrong hands.
You should provide instructions to the provider: what format do you need? Are there any tables and charts? What’s your deadline? Would you like speaker identification and timestamps? Is there any other specific information you should mention?
Once you have all of that in order with your transcriptionist, send your files through a secure file transfer.
The transcriptionist will then use their equipment and transcribe as they listen. They’ll go through again at the end and make any necessary edits.
On top of the transcriptionist’s edits, the file is sent to a QA (quality assurance) team who do second checks and listen to the audio again to make sure the transcribed document is error-free.
The QA team is in charge of:
- Checking grammatical and contextual errors
- Formatting the document as requested
- Filling in any words missed by the transcriptionist
- Final quality check of the document
The editing is possibly the most important step in the transcription process as it’s what transforms a good transcript into an error-free, ready to use document.
Questions to Ask Your Financial Transcription Provider
Now that you have all the information needed to make the right choice, here are some questions you should take with you to ask your financial transcription provider.
- Do they guarantee at least 99% accuracy? Remember that the less accuracy they offer, the more time you’ll spend correcting errors. Accuracy in financial transcription is especially vital since there are lots of numbers.
- Do the turnaround times suit your needs and are they flexible in case your needs change?
- Is the financial transcription service willing to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement)?
- Is the provider based 100% in the US, and are the transcriptionists native English speakers? The transcription provider should have offices with an actual postal code, not a PO box. Sending your files overseas or even to Canada or Mexico could be a hassle since they don’t follow the same protocols.
- Are the security standards up to speed? They should be using scaled network redundancy, visual private network (VPN) integration, dedicated secure data centers, SSL 256-bit secure encryption and secure FTP (SFTP) servers.
- Do they have transcriptionists with experience formatting spreadsheets and other financial documents? This is important as general transcriptionists may not have experience in this, and it can be a little more complicated.
- Is there insurance to protect clients and the provider? Check if the insurance includes general liability and cyber liability. The three main types of insurance are: General Liability or Business Owners Policy, Workers Compensation, and Professional Liability insurance. Make sure they have all of them.
- If a contract is offered, is it transparent, and does it itemize the scope of work? The scope includes the exceptions of the client and the provider. The contract should also be easy to cancel if you’re ever unhappy with the provider’s work.
- Is the business established? You should see reviews and testimonials, and the service should have been around several years to build up its credibility.
- Is there a free trial? Free trials in transcription are great because you get to see if the provider follows through on their promised accuracy rate and if they can adequately provide the format you need it in.
If the financial transcription provider you’re considering has all of these questions answered as yes, it’s likely a great financial transcription service to choose.
Downloadable PDF of Questions to Ask Your Financial Transcription Services Provider
Here’s a downloadable PDF of the questions above you can take with you when comparing providers and asking questions.
If you were looking for a new dividend stock to invest in you wouldn’t simply Google it and choose the first thing that popped up would you? No you’d look for a for information on the best dividend stock to buy in order to do some research and ask some questions.
You now can rest assured you know how to choose the best financial transcription service for you and your needs on your own without being sold by a company that may or may not be the right one for you.
Now that you know how to make an informed decision on which financial transcription provider to choose, it’s time to start researching. Remember that accuracy and security are the two most important key points to consider in financial transcription. Having errors or having data stolen would be a nightmare. Here at Transcription Outsourcing LLC, we are a leader in US transcription and are ready to transcribe your financial files! Get started today.