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The worst corporate jargon investment bankers are forced to use

When you get into an investment bank you will receive two types of education. First, you will learn all there is to know about the technical aspects of finance. Then, you immerse yourself into the corporate world and the language that comes with it.

Corporate buzzwords abound in the City and Wall Street to the extent that using them in favour of ‘plain’ English becomes second nature. But, here’s the thing, a lot of people in the industry resent having to talk the talk.

“The worst thing is that most of the terms aren’t even unique to banking, we’re so uncreative we just re-use other people’s material,” says one senior banker on the condition of anonymity.

Here’s our pick of the best/worst corporate buzzwords to use in banking based on conversations with junior and senior investment bankers.

Capacity: As in, ‘Do you have capacity for this?’ This is a term that fills junior bankers with dread. The question may sound innocuous, but it isn't. What it actually means is, ‘I want you to work on this. Stay until 3am to finish it, or there will be trouble’. It can be interchanged with ‘bandwidth’, which has nothing to do with trousers or internet connections.

Road map: Not an aide to navigating tricky foreign roads on vacation. More a detailed outline of what you intend to do in the future. Also known as a plan.

It is what it is: Thank you, for making very tiny changes to your financial models and PowerPoint formatting over and over again throughout the past week. I am now happy with this presentation, but don’t feel like giving you much praise.

Leverage: For an industry with a huge leveraged finance sector, investment banks certainly like to confuse things. Banks leverage technology, they leverage talent, they leverage ‘synergies’. They also, occasionally, use things.

Reach out: Conjures up images of desperately trying to grab hold of someone, but pretty much ubiquitous across the business world now. The default response to any communication is now ‘Thank you for reaching out’. This may, in retrospect, be a polite way of acknowledging unexpected and often unwanted contact that usually involves more work. Recruiters say graduates have been known to accidentally substitute it with "reach around" in interviews.

Collegial: We’re all in this together, team.

Call an audible: An American football term meaning to make a last minute judgement after assessing all obstacles and possibilities. More dynamic sounding than ‘winging it’.

Circle back: See also ‘loop in’ or ‘close the loop’. Nothing to do with knitting or rollercoasters. Follow up on a previous discussion.

Learning curve: To be used in the following context as a junior banker: “The learning curve is incredibly steep, but this is great for my experience”. Definitely not to be used in: “Learning curve, so steep. I never sleep. My mind is overflowing with information and I am so so exhausted”.

Facetime: To meet with someone in person. More likely to be used in relation to working hours and to disparage a culture of bankers who are tied to their desks. E.g ‘We do not encourage a culture of facetime.’

Scalable: As in ‘Is this thing scalable?’ Can you do this by yourself on a consistent basis, or do we need to hire a bunch of other people to keep this going? If it's the latter, forget it.

Franchise: Nothing to do with running a McDonald's. Used interchangeably to refer to either the bank or a division in the bank. As in “We have a global market-leading top-five ranked scalable M&A franchise’.

Going forward: In the future, from now on. But cleverer.

Level-set: The ugly step-child of ‘on the same page’, but with more corporate zing.

Deep dive: Not a sports report on Tom Daley. To look into something in detail, but makes it sound as though you’ve spent a lot of time on it.

Efficiencies: Used a lot these days = firing people.

Special sauce: Anything proprietary or unique to the company that you don’t want to give any details on/don’t know much about. Thanks to McDonald's.

Thought-leader: Please look at the content marketing promoting our bank.

Synergies: Combining things, cutting costs, giving you more work but no additional compensation.

Walk with me: You should really probably agree with me on this, as I am your boss.


Image: Getty Image

AUTHORPaul Clarke

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