The next time a customer walks into any Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) branch across the country and needs a translator to help communicate, the teller will simply pull out an iPad and get one on video chat.

RBC has been working with Monterey, Calif.-based LanguageLine Solutions LLC to provide telephone translation services and at the end of August, it switched over to the translation firm’s real-time video services. That allows RBC to offer translation services in 14 different languages, including American Sign Language, at its locations right across the country.

“This technology has made the country a whole lot smaller,” says Jamie Clinch, regional vice-president of Halton North for RBC. “RBC’s brand is very focused on advice, and communication and advice go hand in hand.”

To develop the app, RBC’s applied innovation and development team developed a proof-of-concept to solve the problem of overcoming language barriers with newly-arrived immigrants and people with disabilities. Then it coordinated with LanguageLine and its real-time translation app in its Innovation Lab space to customize the app, and test it before pushing it out live to RBC branches (which were already outfitted with iPads.)

LanguageLines app can be customized for differen businesses.
LanguageLine’s app can be customized for different businesses.

LanguageLine offers an app that can be customized depending on client needs, says Bruce Linkletter, the country manager for LanguageLine Solutions, in an email to RBC’s app is unique to the bank and all communications through the app are secured and encrypted.

LanguageLine also provides the translators that RBC connects with through the app. For Clinch, this is a big improvement over a telephone-based system.

“When the person can see eye-to-eye, they feel more comfortable and natural,” he says.

The app also offers the ability to draw on the screen, offering a sort of whiteboard method to communicate back and forth. “In the early stages, it’s numbers that they’ve been marking on there to make sure nothing is lost in translation,” Clinch says.

RBC saw a surge of need for translation services earlier this year when Syrian refugees arrived in Canada, Clinch says. He also expects September to be a busy time for the app, as foreign students arrive from overseas to attend post-secondary schools here.

In one branch based in his region, he says the app was already used three times in the first week of operation. As people know to ask for it, that’s likely to go up.

LanguageLine didn’t share pricing details for its app with When asked what the expense was to RBC, Clinch said that wouldn’t be disclosed, but the bank viewed it as an important customer service need.

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