Investor days from an interpreter’s perspective
Global trends and the CIS market
In the coming decades, the markets of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) along with China, Brazil and Argentina will belong to the fastest growing in the world. Their world leadership position is already burgeoning, and best-in-class multinational companies, medium and even small-size enterprises from industrialized countries of the Old World are capitalising on this trend as a way to safeguard their survival and ensure long term growth.
Russian speaking CIS countries share 70 years of common history, and 20 years of independent development after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Resource rich countries like Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan gained significant wealth that underpins their economic and political standing in the world. Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have formed a political and customs union that established a political and economic entity on a vast territory with sizeable natural and human recourses and potential.
The Baltic States have integrated and become part of the EU. Ukraine, striving to perform a balancing act between the EU and the CIS, pursues its own path that leans in terms of social and economic development towards other central European counties like Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, its immediate neighbours in the West. At the same time Ukraine is willing to maintain traditional links to the markets in the East and North. I believe that this geopolitical position bears significant potential, provided that Ukraine conducts its politics wisely.
Changes in the rhetoric of international conferences on the example of the energy market and Special Economic Zones.
Capital flows on the global market are highly responsive to world economic changes, and capital relocates in alignment with these global trends. Multilingual events of the 90s involving Russian or Ukrainian languages where I interpreted focused mainly on political and social stability, humanitarian aid, the Chernobyl catastrophe and such issues as independence, sovereignty, stability and economic restructuring. But the recent rhetoric of multilingual meetings has shifted towards the circular economy, sustainable growth, climate protection, energy sector and environmental issues.
Along with traditional events from professional conference organizers (PCO), in the recent years I increasingly interpret directly for venture capital funds and investment companies that specialize in the CIS market – at so called investor days.
Interestingly enough, PCOs, funds and investment companies don’t usually attract large multinationals such as BP, Chevron, Shell, Eni or Exxon Mobil if we take the energy sector as an example. These companies purchase exploration and drilling licenses, and enter into the so called product sharing agreements, PSA (Rus. соглашение о разделении продукции, СРП) with the governments directly.
This tendency is particularly strong in Ukraine, which is currently exploring its shale gas and storage capacity, and at the same time modernizing its gas transportation system (GTS). The challenge for Ukraine is to safeguard alternative sources of the energy supply and alleviate its dependence on Russian gas. Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan also cooperate with the multinationals directly, seeking alternative delivery channels of their hydrocarbons to buyers others than Russia.
The market for depletable fossil resources such as oil and gas is being revamped. Pipeline routes get built to reflect new geopolitical situations, and shale gas and fracturing techniques are being explored and tested to provide new sources of fossil fuel in the regions where traditional oil wells are no longer producing.
Against the background of this restructuring that is taking place in the traditional energy sector, led by the leading global energy companies that are capable of multi-billion Dollar investments, a new trend is gaining traction – the trend towards a circular economy based on clean technologies, recycling and no-waste production. Venture capital and green investment funds, mobile and highly responsive by their nature, immediately latched onto this trend. As with any grass roots movement, it aligns medium and small-size enterprises that are more mobile in their strategies than large industrial companies.
PCOs, as well as the funds themselves, stage conferences, investor days and other multilingual events for private equity investors and portfolio companies. Governments have responded to this trend by establishing the so called Special Economic Zones (SEZ, Rus. Особая экономическая зона, ОЭЗ), such as Alabuga in Tatarstan, Russia, which has preferential tax and customs regimes.
In Alabuga, for example, profit tax is 2 %, land, transport, and property tax equal 0 %, as well export and import duty, and there is no VAT on components. The SEZs play the role of a gateway to national economies and give an opportunity to market entry for innovative international growth companies. In the SEZs high-tech clusters emerge, mainly within the new sectors of the global economy: enhanced oil recovery, petrochemicals with the focus on clean waste water technologies, disposal solutions for manure in agriculture, electric transportation, development of thermo- and resource efficient construction, energy efficiency, IT.
Terminology of the emerging global trend towards the circular economy, and its equivalents in Russian
Of course, the new rhetoric of the international multilingual communication requires new ways of terminological expression; hence conference interpreters face new linguistic challenges. Whereas we have become accustomed to the new concepts of the early 21st century such as “sustainable”, “climate change”, “globalism” and “emerging markets”, yet newer concepts were coined in its second decade, such as “environmental impact”, “resource efficiency”, “electric mobility”, “grid safety”, “clean energy”, “cleantech” and so on. Social changes go along with the development of the language. On other words, the language mirrors global trends and reflects their conceptualization.
«Чистые технологии», «чистая энергия», «электромобильность», «ресурсоэффективность» simply did not exist as concepts in the late 80s - early 90s when “perestroika” and “glasnost” dominated the political discourse.
In the realm of finance, two decades ago we talked about INCOTERMS, letters of credit (Rus. аккредитивы) and state guarantees (Rus. государственные гарантии) through Hermes and similar agencies. Western flagship companies and banks only tacitly entered the CIS market, the multinationals followed later. Now the time has come when international infrastructure is provided in the CIS, venture capital, private equity and small and medium high-tech enterprises get settled in SEZ and form clusters pioneering the Third Industrial Revolution so brilliantly conceptualized by the US sociologist and global trend researcher Jeremy Rifkin[i].
The current discourse of investor days is full of terminology that describes pure financial mechanisms and is completely void of political rhetoric, such as carried interest, cash-on-cash ratio and investment return ratio (IRR) which is not the same by the way, hurdle return and preferred returns, downside protection and LP (limited partnership) which is used as a synonym to a private equity investor as opposed to an institutional investor. Some of this terminology requires descriptive explanatory rephrasing into Russian, for example, buyins and buyouts is best translated by «покупка и продажа контрольных пакетов акций» whereas others have precise correspondents as in “hurdle return” which is best translated by a fairly precise “пороговая доходность” that refers to the same metaphor of a “threshold”. In yet other instances the Russian is more specific: “preferred returns” is best translated by a narrowing down “минимальная доходность”.
There are instances of onomatopoetic translation like in “funding rates” or “funding transactions” which are translated like «ставка фондирования», «операции фондирования». The English funding is being transliterated into a word in Russian that didn’t previously exist and sounds similar to the original term which is a valid route to enrich vocabulary of a particular language.
Summing up, it should be pointed out that the development of the language accompanies and expresses global social and economic trends. In other words, we conceptualize and verbalize socio-economic developments through language, establishing in this way new reality as it is perceived by the society and acted upon by innumerate big and small actors.
With the onset of machine translation and global dominance of English many believe that interpretation and translation will become obsolete and redundant. I don’t think so. In my view translation is needed today more than ever. National and local languages manifest through them national and local cultures and identities. For an interpreter, it’s a constant learning process; no one speaks of “perestroika” and “glasnost” today. New concepts of “sustainable growth”, “clean technologies” and “energy efficiency” dominate the agenda of the global communication and, hence, international conferences.
Jeremy Rifkin, The Third Industrial Revolution. How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.