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The most hated office clichés in all of banking

As summer internships have wrapped up and new analyst classes are getting their feet wet, we thought we’d update our list of the most reviled office clichés in banking – the empty phrases your colleagues and bosses regularly use that make your skin crawl.

We talked to a group of bankers, traders and consultants to freshen up the list and explain them as best we can. We also included a few that you left in the comments from a previous posting as well as a handful recently added to a forum on Wall Street Oasis. Some are very industry-specific, others are more general clichés that tend to make people shudder. Let us know what we missed.

Action items: Essentially just a list of things that need to get done.

Provide some color: If you’ve ever listened to an earnings call in banking, you’ve heard analysts utter this phrase multiple times. It basically just means “please provide more details," or a flashier way of asking someone to talk about something.

Circle back: To re-evaluate something or give it a second look. You can also circle back – or re-connect – with a person to solve an issue. “Let me circle back with Bob and I’ll let you know.”

Don’t boil the ocean: Don’t overcomplicate or overthink a project to make it unnecessarily difficult or time-consuming.

Don't cut the lawn with scissors: Similar to the above – be efficient and get straight to the point.

Long/short/bull/bear: Some traders love using market lingo in situations where they’re not talking about a stock or anything to do with work for that matter. One buy-side trader said he was “bearish” on a player in my recent fantasy football draft. He's said that every year for the last 10.

Facing some headwinds: A cute way of explaining why you haven’t hit your numbers, and why it’s not your fault. Bank CEOs love to talk about market headwinds when the firm misses its guidance.

Hard-stop: You have to stop a meeting at a specific time as you have another appointment that you can’t move or be late to – or you just want the meeting to be over. “I have a hard-stop at 11 a.m.”

You're only as good as your last trade: Self-explanatory but uttered every day according to one sell-side trader.

Bandwidth: One you alerted us to last time. Having “bandwidth” means you have the knowledge to go into greater detail on something. You can also “provide” bandwidth.

Over the wall: You are in the know. You have information that others don’t.

Run this up a flagpole and see if anyone salutes: To run an idea past people casually to see if it has legs, to use another cliché. Apparently this one goes back to the 1950s.

Dead cat bounce: It is the recovery in the price of stock/commodity/etc. after a massive decline. It comes from the idea that something has fallen so far that even a dead cat would bounce.

Scrimmage it: Common in investment banking, it is similar to another cliché: to “hash something out.”

Dig out: To get through all your backlog of work. “Let me dig out and I’ll come see you in an hour.”

Deep dive: Giving a thorough analysis.

Best practices: A seemingly formal, informal way of telling you that didn’t do something correctly by not following “best practices.”

Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered: Don’t be overly greedy, lest you get the chop.

Touch base: To make contact or catch up. “Let’s touch base later today.”

Give me a buzz: “Call me.” You can also “ping” somebody by messaging them.

Ready, fire, aim: The idea of being aggressive and moving quickly without over-thinking.

Get alignment: To get everyone on the same page.

30,000 foot view: The abridged version of an issue. You don’t want every detail, but just a general idea of what’s happening.

This is a perishable: Another one left by a commenter. It means that something is time-sensitive.

We just need to get them a little bit pregnant: One from Wall Street Oasis that we’ve never heard of but was too odd not to include. It’s reportedly used to (crudely) describe the need to warm up a green client during the sales process.

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Bear with us if you leave a comment at the bottom of this article: all our comments are moderated by actual human beings. Sometimes these humans might be asleep, or away from their desks, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. Eventually it will – unless it’s offensive or libelous (in which case it won’t).

AUTHORBeecher Tuttle US Editor
  • Ca
    Catherine Shalen
    5 September 2018

    What are the pain points (oy and ouille)
    Could you help me ... I have a brain cramp.

  • Ca
    Catherine Shalen
    5 September 2018

    What are the painpoints. Oy and ouille.

  • Le
    27 April 2018

    "Bottom line", "having said that", "All-in", "We have to all-in ourselves in the deal"(as when a transaction is promising), and my personal favorite: "Did you do X (or were you on that call), or not really?"

    I remember the funniest slide put together by an analyst with the graphs showing incidence for these and other terms...if someone has it, please share it. Best thing ever.

  • Ca
    Captain Scarlett
    24 April 2018

    "Touch base" has been around since I first started in the city over 20 years ago.
    I attempted to bring it into an English context by changing it to "pop my bat in your crease", but that lead to a conversation about "dignity at work"

  • ka
    23 April 2018

    "Over the wall: You are in the know. You have information that others don't."

    Not a very good explanation of the term.

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