By Chris L. Crosgrove, CPE, Englewood, Colo.
One of the newer venues that has opened to captioners is in realtiming financial reporting calls to the Internet. This arena is usually considered to be part of an area sometimes called webcasting.
Webcasting can be loosely defined as realtime translations which are fed to an Internet Web site. Events that might be webcast include meetings, conference calls, training lectures, seminars, etc. If these events were realtimed on-site, a CART provider would probably be called upon to perform the service. Because it may not be necessary to have these realtimed on-site, they can be realtimed from a remote location. While webcasting is technically not captioning (captioning usually involves words on a picture, according to Gary Robson), many captioners are providing this service.
Publicly held companies are required by the Securities and Exchange Commission to report their earnings each financial quarter. Many of these companies are now doing so by means of a conference call. These publicly held companies usually contract with another company to host the call. While this second company may have staff who work directly for that company and provide realtime translation, it also contracts with vendors who provide realtime translation services so that a realtime transcript can be sent to and viewed on a Web site. The Web site is password protected, so only those with permission can access the realtime transcript.
Anatomy of a Financial Reporting Call
Calls typically last an hour. In the first half-hour, the officers of the company reporting its earnings read their reports. These reports usually outline the financial progress the company has made in the previous quarter and compare those figures to the quarter before that. Projections into the next quarter are also often discussed. To protect the company from liability should future performance fall short of these projections, "safe harbor" language is also read near the beginning of the call. This language basically says that the company is not responsible if the company's future performance does not align with any projections made at the time of the call.
In the second half-hour, financial analysts from investment companies are allowed to ask questions of the officers who read their reports earlier. These may be requests for clarification, future plans, progress on mergers, etc. Each questioner is announced by an operator, who functions as traffic cop. The questions and answers continue until there are no more questions or until the allotted time for the call is exhausted.
Preparing for the Call
The steno writer usually receives about a week's notice for the call. The information given to the writer will include the time of the call and the name of the company reporting its earnings. The writer can prepare for the call by surfing
the Web site for the company reporting its earnings. On this Web site are usually brand names, subsidiary companies, names of company officers, etc. Information including the officers' names can also be found at http://biz.yahoo.com/cc -- click on the ticker symbol, click on the "company profile" link, and you will find a business summary and the officers' names. The http://biz.yahoo.com/cc link also houses archived calls which can be accessed if you wish to practice and become familiar with the "flow" of the calls.
A very useful Web site that contains glossaries of financial terms is www.investorwords.com. Here you will find terms like EBIDTA, GAAP, SG&A, LIFO, etc.; these terms (and briefs for same, if desired) can be placed in your dictionary. You should also place the names of the company officers in a dictionary. These officers will refer to each other during the call; however, when they speak, they are not identified by name. A speaker change symbol (>>) is used to indicate when the speaker changes. You will also need a definition for the speaker change symbol.
Writing the Call
Ten to 15 minutes before the call begins, the steno writer dials the number for the call, opens a realtime file, and connects to the Web site that will be receiving the realtime transcript. When the call begins, the operator will introduce the call and outline the procedures for the call. The operator then introduces the officer who will be speaking first; that officer introduces the other officers who will be participating in the call. Then the officers read their respective reports. Next, the operator announces the Q and A session and outlines procedures for asking questions. The operator then introduces each questioner by name and the investment company for which he works. The questioner asks the question, and the officers answer. Again, each speaker is identified with >>. The Q and A continues until there are no more questions or until the allotted time has been exhausted. The officers then make any closing remarks, after which the operator announces the call is complete and all listeners may disconnect.
After the call is finished, the steno writer reviews the file and defines untranslates, non-conflicting mistranslates, etc. At that point, the steno writer's duties are finished.
What Else Happens?
While the call is in progress, an editor may be recording the call and comparing the realtime transcript to the recording. The editor makes the realtime transcript match the call recording verbatim. Editors usually have four hours from the beginning of the call to submit the completed verbatim transcript. So in a nutshell, this is how a call might progress:
- Stenowriter is notified of the call.
- Stenowriter prepares for the call.
- Stenowriter writes the call; realtime transcript is fed to a Web site and an editor.
- Stenowriter evaluates call file.
- Editor matches realtime transcript to recording of the call.
But I Don't Like Numbers!
Of course numbers will be discussed in these calls; however, they are usually not difficult amounts and are easily written.
Most companies who need to report their earnings usually do so in weeks three through six of the financial quarter; so there is a cyclical nature to this kind of work. Call volumes will be especially heavy on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of these weeks, and these weeks usually fall in January, April, July, and October. The calls usually occur between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern time.
Okay. I would like to do this. What do I do?
Contact a captioning company and ask if they provide this service. If they do, ask about their procedures for the calls and procedures for being hired by the company. They will guide you through their hiring process and educate you in their procedures.
What can I make?
Pay varies by company and the type of relationship the company has with its realtime writers. Some companies have independent contractor arrangements; some have employer/employee arrangements; some might do either, depending on the desire of the realtime writer. Inquire about this when you're investigating the captioning company.
About the Author
Chris Crosgrove is the Manager of Recruiting and Training at Caption Colorado, LLC, in Denver. He is a CPE and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Education from Wayne State College, Nebraska and a Master of Music from University of Nebraska-Lincoln.