Thursday, 30 August 2012

20 terrible finance clichés

Let's leverage our synergies
To celebrate five years of financial services journalism, I've compiled a list of twenty words or phrases that the industry loves just a bit too much.

Some of these platitudes are frustrating from a journalistic point of view. The same worn clichés tarnish the English language daily, wheeled out by highly intelligent people who certainly studied some English before collecting  MBAs and joining the corporate BS wagon.

Other culprits on this list reflect the industry when at its pompous, vainglorious worst. While busy doing God’s work – or taking the global economy to the brink – many a City boy has turned this lexicon into an insulating comfort blanket against some cold, hard truths.

So here goes...

A euphemistic acronym if ever there was one. GFC is for Global Financial Crisis. I first remember hearing it in 2009. The crisis was still very much in evidence; the can had barely been kicked down the street; the threat was returning in sovereign debt form. Someone in the industry must have got impatient. So why not sanitise it as the GFC? Vomit.

The word derives from the Greek “to guess”. Yes, really. Used by risk modelling types to sound awfully sophisticated, it could be replaced by “random”, which doesn’t sound half so clever.

Wouldn't plain old “lever” do?  Repeated ad nauseam, I still think it sounds awful as a verb. And it gets used again and again, inexcusably, outside of its technical investment definition / context. It’s often a euphemism too: “leveraged up to the hilt” sounds a bit more professional than the Victorian “queer street” or just plain old indebtedness.

Someone’s about to lose their job.


Cycle back / Touch base
Two nauseating favourites over-used by many PRs, marketers, sales-types and BS merchants everywhere; it’s also increasingly being parroted by lazy hacks.

Pull the trigger
One over-used by Alpha sales boys. They could just “do” whatever it is, but no.

Used in the same context but by those seeking to sound officious.

Why not say increase” once in a while? I’m not sure why this one is such common currency.

Going forward
This empty-headed phrase adds absolutely nothing of value to any sentence.

Change manager
This person lives in a constant state of flux. It’s basically a gold star for somebody who likes to steam in and take over somebody else’s job during a merger, or some other awfully sophisticated corporate reformation.

Something is either good value or it isn’t. There are costs and benefits, beneficiaries and benefactors, winners and losers. Some things can even add value to other things. There is no reason for this phrase to exist.

High yield
Maybe junk bond just sounded too yuppie. I'd prefer “risky business.

Didn’t see that one coming, huh? Another euphemism for something rubbish.

We may be God’s children in the dark, but this is frequently used as yet another euphemism for something shady.

Skin in the game
Horribly overused, this one; basically people should only gamble with their own money.

Another example of sanitising a crappy situation, this one has seen lots of use since the credit crisis from firms seeking to reduce their bets, cutting risky exposures to focus on more plain “vanilla” investments in hard times.

A tough one, this. If it looks like a bond and feels like a bond, it’s probably a bond. In happier days, Islamic investors could recline and enjoy conscience-free returns. It took a crisis for tougher questions to emerge. There were quite a few abandoned sports cars, keys still in their ignitions, left at Dubai’s airport in 2009. I’m guessing their flighty owners were dabbling in debt.

One for the social media marketing luvvies, rather than strictly finance. I think it just means that a website is popular.

Responsible lending
As far as I can tell, this is what lenders should have been doing all along, made to sound like an innovative new idea.

I must have missed many more!


  1. It discuss about some good points of social marketing waterloo. Thanks for sharing such a informative blog.

  2. More cliches here...

  3. "Evidence" as a verb. "You need to evidence that". Don't you need to prove it or justify it? Recently I also saw "anniversary" as a verb. "We anniversary 5-7.5% increases." What?

    The only one of yours I disagree with I think is de-risking which I think describes the act of reducing risk quite well, and I can’t think of an alternative.