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Digital Banking

Benefits of a Multilingual Digital Banking System

Brian M. Otte
Nov 2, 2023

First impressions have always been a fascination of mine.

I recognize they are crucial because they’re often based on limited information and tend to shape some initial views. When most people meet me, their immediate thoughts tend to be that I was likely born and raised somewhere in the heartland of this beautiful country. I’ve been blessed to live in the U.S. most of my life, but my story is drastically different than most people think.

I have two parents who moved to the U.S. when they had the opportunity to attend the University of Oregon.

My father, who was born and raised in the Netherlands (Holland), was seeking his master’s degree at the University of Oregon. My mother, who came from another part of the world – Colombia to be specific – was also accepted into the University of Oregon, where she obtained her undergraduate degree at the same time.

This led to their chance encounter on campus.  

As they say … the rest is history! Or at least part of my history.

Both of my parents spoke multiple languages, as they each made it a point to learn the language of wherever they resided. Today, my father speaks six languages, and my mother speaks four.

My older sister was born when my parents lived in Menlo Park, California. Shortly thereafter, my mother and father had the opportunity to move to the Dominican Republic where my father took on his first role as the Country Manager for Bank of America. It was there, in Santa Domingo, that my parents brought me into this world.

My family and I have moved six different times since I was born.

As we learned to adapt to six different cultures, we also learned new languages along the way. In fact, English was not the first language I learned … Spanish was.

Spanish was my primary language (the language you use inside your head at all times), followed by Portuguese, then Spanish again, and now English. Sounds confusing, right? Imagine growing up realizing the words you spoke routinely today might be different tomorrow.

I often get asked if moving around so much hurt me in life or helped me.

I can confidently say being able to connect with people from around the world has been an incredible asset; however, it does come with its challenges. You see, very often I’d think in one language and then translate the words in my head to the language I needed to speak. It’s the same way for me today. Actually, it’s the same way for all my family members.

Today, English is my primary language.

It’s rooted in the way I think, the way I talk, and the way I absorb information. So often, I hear if someone moves to a new country, they should learn the language. I think you’ll see from our history that my family fully agrees. However, I would submit that even if you learn a language, it’s very difficult to change your primary language.

I give you all this background and insight into my past because I truly feel there’s an enormous opportunity within our industry to offer multi-language systems to the market.

Inclusivity That Increases Your Reach

Implementing a multilingual digital banking system, for instance, offers several significant benefits for both your accountholders and your financial institution.

It truly should be looked at as a win-win.

Let’s start with your financial institution. A multilingual digital banking system ensures your accountholders from diverse linguistic backgrounds can access and use your platform comfortably. This inclusivity increases the reach of your services and attracts a broader accountholder base.

For banks and credit unions looking to expand their operations internationally, a multilingual system is crucial.

Offering a multilingual digital banking app enables you to provide services to accountholders from different countries and regions without language barriers and demonstrates a commitment to accountholder service and inclusivity – ultimately setting your financial institution apart from competitors.

Enhance Your Accountholder Experience

If you’re focused domestically, you may be asking yourself, “Why should I care?”

Let’s go back to the primary language topic I previously brought up.

A multilingual system demonstrates cultural sensitivity and awareness, empowering your accountholders to feel more valued and better understood when they can access services in their preferred language.

Offering the opportunity to do so can lead to higher satisfaction rates along with stronger loyalty. Simply put, all are equal. If one financial institution offers me the ability to absorb information in my primary language and the other does not, it’s pretty evident who I’m going to choose as my primary financial institution.

Furthermore, and this has happened to me personally, language-related misunderstandings can lead to errors in financial transactions. A multilingual system reduces the risk of these errors – once again enhancing the overall accountholder experience.

Operating in a Multicultural World

In summary, a multilingual digital banking system not only expands your accountholder base, but enhances your accountholder satisfaction, experiences, and competitive advantages in addition to fostering inclusivity and improving communication.

What’s more, a multilingual digital banking system can also lead to cost savings and better data-driven decision-making.

Overall, it's a valuable investment for any financial institution operating in a multicultural and globalized world … which last I checked, we do!

To learn more about how you can offer Spanish language support within your digital banking experience, please reach out to our Digital Experience team.

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