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The 20 most hated office clichés in financial services


With another year under our belt, we thought we’d update our list of the most reviled clichés in all of financial services – the empty phrases your colleagues and bosses utter on a daily basis that make your skin crawl.

We talked to a group of bankers, traders, consultants and other financial pros to freshen up the list. We also included a few that you left in the comments last year. Some are very industry-specific, others are more general clichés that are likely uttered in most any business meeting. Did we miss any?

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

Hard stop: One that’s oft-used in journalism as well. It means you have to stop a meeting at a specific time as you have another appointment that you can’t move or be late to. “I have a hard stop at 11 a.m.”

Dead cat bounce: Used to discuss a particular asset. It is a recovery – usually short – 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.

Best practices: A seemingly formal, informal way of telling you that didn’t do something correctly. Common in investment banking. You didn’t follow “best practices.”

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.

Parking lot: To put an end to a conversation with the idea of coming back to it later. “Let’s put that in a parking lot and move on.” Giving an idea “some air,” or time to resonate, is similar.

Scrimmage it: Also common in investment banking. 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.”

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.”

Deep dive: Giving a thorough analysis.

Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered: Don’t be overly greedy, lest you get the chop. Sort of an anti-Gordon Gekko.

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

Give me a buzz: “Call me.”

Ping: Similar to a buzz, except it doesn’t have to be a phone call. You can “ping” someone through any means of contact.

Ready, fire, aim: The idea of being aggressive and moving quickly without over-thinking. Some eggs will likely get broken, to explain one cliché with another.

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.

Comments (34)

  1. Please stop people ‘reaching out’ to me! I feel violated every time someone attempts this: think 1970’s zombie crowd attack, slow and very terminal.

  2. Also, stop thanking me ‘for sharing.’ I’m not a charity.

  3. ‘and the reality is….’ This from a boss who clearly had no clue what reality is.

  4. “Bullet point the action steps”……don’t give me any ideas

  5. I’ll “effort” that.

  6. Here’s one: “Net-net” Meaning the very, very bottom line of the conversation (i.e., the takeaway)

  7. Another thing I don’t like is for people using sports language in office like say It is over the hump etc. You are monday morning Qr.back. These sicken me. I like straight talk.

  8. Heard a new one….”this is a perishable” meaning that it is time sensitive. Why do these idiots need to speak like that???

  9. And don’t ever *PING* me again!

  10. “Do what makes sense”. Would anybody do something that doesn’t make sense?

  11. One that I never even thourghly understood was give me a “bridge document” it indicates that the person I just gave a document to is either too stupid or too lazy to figure out what’s going from the information just given to them.

  12. Since when is “give me a buzz” a financial world’s lingo?

  13. Ugh.. loving this list. The one I can’t stand is when someone is going to “shoot me an email.” Keep the violence at the theaters folks. If you plan on shooting, you’d better aim to kill…lol.

  14. I’ll ping you to touch base so we can circle back on those action items as soon as I dig out.

  15. “Circle back” is one that really makes me cringe. But I recently heard a new one … after explaining that we needed help with a project, a colleague approached me and said; “Hey, I have some ‘bandwidth’ … Thank you; but for crying out loud can’t you just say I have some time?

    • @Rich ‘Bandwidth’ is a brutal one. Didn’t include because it wasn’t mentioned and seems more like a sale and marketing cliche. I took bandwidth to be more knowledge than time. “I can provide some bandwidth on that idea…”

  16. @Troubleboy, I’ve never thanked anyone for sharing because they were a charity, it’s expected in that particular case. However when someone shares information, communications, and themselves with others with the intent to benefit or help, thank them for sharing always.

  17. here my favorites: how are you? how you doin? how is it going? what’s up? what’s happening? what’s new? what’s good with you? how are you hanging in there? how are you going? … each repeated at least once per conversation, in each conversation, every day, and by people who couldn’t care less. GCC advice: try to respond with: “been better”. most likely response: “al hamdullilah, habibi, thanks god you’re okay…”

  18. here my favorites: how are you? how you doin? how is it going? what’s up? what’s happening? what’s new? what’s good with you? how are you hanging in there? how are you going? how was your weekend?… each repeated at least once per conversation, in every conversation, and by people who couldn’t care less or might fire you the next day. GCC advice: try to respond with: “been better”. most likely response: “al hamdullilah, habibi, thanks god you’re okay…” be careful if someone also asks you after asking any of the above repeatedly: “are you okay? you seem a bit tense…”

  19. ASAP a.k.a As soon as possible. when they really mean they want it NOW so you should drop everything and do it.

  20. Are you busy

  21. Fun article! I worked in the product dept of the asset management div of a large bank. but now I’m back in my natural environment which is a smaller entrepreneurial investment manager. Indeed the big bank was lousy with these sayings. I was asked to take conversations “off line”, asked to assess how much “band-width” was available in my group to assist with a “deep dive” on a project for distribution” (sales). I often felt like the country cousin because I didn’t have an easy supply of these sayings but now that I’m back in a smaller more entrepreneurial environment and work with big names in the Canadian business world (all of whom speak normally and without such phrases) I have to believe it is a bank culture thing. Like having a regional accent.

  22. “That deal has some hair on it”

    “Falling knife”

    “All deals are good at the right price”

    “10x oversubscribed” – used liberally even if not true.

  23. One from the marketing department: What is the “ask” for this email/DM/ad/video/etc?

    Oh, you mean how would we like the reader to respond? Idiots.

  24. Sports references. I am with Exchequer on this one.

    From some years ago. At an all day lecture, I had to listen to the “whole ball of wax” and “the whole nine yards” repeated throughout. No one appeared to ask what on earth this meant and I had to assume everyone but me knew !

    Still not sure! Please feel free to enlighten me.

    By the way , this was a UK born speaker to a UK audience.

  25. This list is cringe-worthy as we’ve all experienced these terms in the corporate environment.
    As a European before I worked in an Anglo-American company, I never experienced this.
    But once I did…I realized how terrible they are.

    When a company culture becomes like this….There is no more innovation and only backroom dealing. I hate going to meetings and hearing “these are the action items” or “lets park this idea for now”. I would much more respect the boss if he said “Ok guys we got to do X and Y by this time. Lets assign the roles now”. And “This idea is good, but practically we’re not sure about it, lets keep it off right now”.

    In traditional European environment we are much more direct this is why these terms feel terrible.

    Its better to be hurt and make work make a difference in a company, than endless nonsense and discussions/meetings that go nowhere and are filled with innuendos.

  26. I’m surprised no one mentioned “socialize”, as in, “I’ll socialize the idea with so and so …” For crying it out loud!

  27. Commercial and Operations to describe sales team and the people who actually have to do the work

  28. “I’ll throw it to him..” Meaning I’ll throw it to him (or her or them) and let them deal with it and when they are frustrated or its not working out then I will get involved..at that time. This is a lazy person and not a good manager in the financial services company.

  29. I stop listening when I hear the word paradigm, whether its new, shifting or otherwise.

  30. Paradigms…new, shifting or otherwise ……

  31. How about, “that said, …”

  32. Alternative meanings.

    Hard Stop: you talk too much. I have my mind made up already, but my boss wants me to play nice
    Best Practices: the way your MD does it
    Bandwidth (ie: not having): I am busy, go away
    Parking Lot: your next employer if you keep offering poorly conceived suggestions
    Circle Back: perhaps you will forget about this
    Deep Dive: I do t know what you are talking about…let me google so I can sound halfway intelligent

  33. The list is far from complete. To add some:
    ringfence, Segway through, pencil in, pow-wow, action (verb), debrief (verb), robust, takeaway.

    “fell through the cracks”, “get up to speed”, “hit the ground running”, “you would be amazed how much can be done when people don’t care about getting credit”, “today is my mental break”, “let’s reconnect/reconvene”

    “What are you working on?” , “When do you think it will be completed?” , “Do you have capacity/ availability/bandwidth?”, “Is this good for a company?” , “how would you approach this?” , “can I interject?”

    i suggest making an iphone app with this beautiful office lingo…

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