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November 24, 2015 by Terence Roche Terence Roche

GonzoBanker Guide to Bankspeak for Industry Newbies

“Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They’re about to announce the lottery numbers.” -Homer Simpson

To the newer employees in the banking industry – today’s tome is for you! At GonzoBanker, we are always excited to see new faces and new talent in the industry. What’s more, we consider it both a privilege and a duty to help you wade through many of the complexities of our industry and put the wind at your back in your journey to success.

One of the first and biggest struggles you will have is trying to understand what we have all come to know as “Bankspeak.” There are plenty of things you are going to hear people say. Some of them you’re going to hear several people say a lot. Maybe a whole lot. But, here’s the thing. Some of the things people say might have, over the course of time, come to really have a meaning that’s the eensiest, teensiest bit different from what the words might actually imply. In other words, there are things people will say but there’s also a deeper meaning you have to understand.

Now, your initial impression might be that this sounds like a bunch to wade through, right? Sounds like it could be a bit discouraging, right? You maybe want to stop reading, right?

Well, as the Scottish say, Nah! In fact, the team at Cornerstone has pondered this exact topic, and what follows today is a list of some of the most common things you will hear in meetings, speeches and conversations with vendors. But here’s the kicker. We have also de-coded for you what they actually mean! This will save you tons of time walking around and pestering your peers with questions that start with “What the?” that many of them still can’t answer.

Now, in order to give you maximum value on this topic, I have divided things into three groups:

  • Vendor Speak – things you will hear from the vendors that sell you the systems and services that are needed to run the bank
  • Banker Speak – things you will hear from your peers and leaders
  • Consultant Speak – things you will hear from the invaluable consultants who will help you with key decisions, key projects and (now, if you remember anything, remember this next point) that need to represent an ever-increasing part of your non-interest expense budget in future years

Vendor Speak

When a vendor says: “We have not talked for too long. We’d really like to visit you and share strategies and vision.”

It means: Your contract is up for renewal sometime in the next 12 months.”


When you hear: “We view this relationship as a long-term partnership.”

It means: They’re going to propose a 10-year term.


When you hear: “We see this as a win-win.”

It means: They’re going to try and win this deal today. If that works, they’re going to be back tomorrow and try to win something else.


When you hear: “We think that by the end of the day you will see the real value this solution can bring to you in terms of growth and efficiency. And that’s where we want to focus – value.”

It means: They already know they’re going to be the most expensive proposal you get.


When you hear: “We have invested more R&D in this system than any of our competitors have in theirs.”

It means: “Quick! Somebody in marketing come up with a graph in case I get challenged on this!”


When you hear: “I’m glad you asked. That’s in our long-term roadmap.”

It means: “Damn. That’s a good idea. Somebody write that down and let’s take it to the developers.”


When, in a demo, you hear: “We are very parameter-driven so our users can have maximum flexibility in customizing the solution,” or, “I think we should get my experts with you one-off on this entire topic since it’s clear you have much more sophisticated needs that most of our users.”

It means: “I have no idea if our system can do what you just asked. I don’t even understand the question.”


When you hear: “We almost certainly have integrated a separate third party tool that can do it. Let me follow up on that.”

It means: “We can’t do that. Will you give us a jingle if you find a tool that can?”


When you hear: “I’m pretty sure we could commit to that but I hope you understand that I’d have to run it by home office first.”

It means: The lawyers can always come up with a better way to say no than the sales people can.


And, when a vendor says anything that includes the phrases “multiple data points,” “rapid development,” or “leveraged architecture”…

It means: No clue. Good luck on that one.

Banker Speak

When a CEO says: “We have to get the right people on the bus.”

It means: Well, CEOs are complicated people so this actually might mean one of two things:

  1. He/she just read Good to Great again and it’s going to be a big part of the next strategic planning meeting. So you need to grab a copy, dust it off, read it and practice saying, “Call me crazy for asking, but does that idea really pass the Hedgehog test?”
  2. Somebody’s ass is getting fired. And soon.


When a CEO says:  “We have to aggressively take advantage of growth opportunities,” or, “I have 100% confidence in the ability of my team to adapt to any change or meet any challenge.”

It means: He/she is about to announce another big, messy acquisition, which you will have six months to pull off. Maybe.


When a senior management team, to a person, says: “This looks like a real opportunity for one of our young stars to run with.”

It means: None of them want to get within 10 miles of whatever this thing is. You’re about to be drafted, Bubba. Now that I think about it, that’s how I got put in charge of I.T. back in the day.


When a CFO says: “I’d like to see a bit of a harder ROI on this before we go too much farther.”

It means: You have no chance in hell of getting the money for this. Just turn off the PowerPoint and mosey on down the road. Starting right now.


When a banker says: “Yes, this is aggressive pricing. But, we really need to make a statement in the marketplace that we’re a player.”

It means: “Man, this deal makes or breaks my quarterly goal.”


When the head of Sales says: “We have implemented our sales culture and have exceeded every sales goal we set.”

It means: “Quick! Somebody who understands the sales tracking system come up with a graph in case I get challenged on this!”


When Ops says: “Has anybody stopped to consider the damn fact that if you just used what you have in front of you the damn way we set it up and read the damn documentation then we wouldn’t need to talk about getting a new damn system?”

It means: Oh. This one’s easy. That’s exactly what it means. You see, Ops people are missing the say-one-thing-mean-something-else gene. Note: this does not mean you have to read the damn documentation. I mean, nobody else did.


When anybody says:  “I’m a change agent.”

It means: They liked the way things were done at their last job and they’re going to make you do it that way too.


And, if your boss ever says: “You have a unique set of skills. We really need to put our heads together and think about whether they are being fully utilized and whether you are being truly challenged in your current position.”

It means: Your ass is getting fired. And soon.

Consultant Speak

When a consultant says: “We specialize in one-off jobs like this.”

It means: “We haven’t exactly done this kind of job before.”


When you hear: “We have a proven set of tools and a field-tested methodology.”

It means: “We have a certain way we like to do things and we’ve never been accused of being open-minded about this.”


When you hear:
“We have an iterative design process.”

It means: “We’ll keep trying things until we hit on something you like.”


When you hear: “You need to take a holistic, top-down planning approach that really leverages your human capital and sets actionable targets.”

It means: Uhhhhh. Yah, I really have no idea what that means. What’s bad about this is that I’m pretty sure I said it in a speech one time.


And, last but not least, when you hear: “We can say with complete confidence that every engagement we have ever done for a client has produced significant, measurable results.”

It means: “Quick. Somebody have one of the analysts come up with a graph in case I get challenged on this!”

So, there you have it. We have cut through countless hours you industry neophytes might have wasted fretting over, deliberating, and deciphering things you will no doubt hear in your career travels.

And, although we pride ourselves on being thorough, we have to grant that there is at least the statistical possibility that we may have missed just one or two things. So, an offer. For the first three additions you loyal readers send in that qualify for this elite list, you will get them posted in a future GonzoBanker article (a real feather in anybody’s cap and an important career booster) and a GonzoBanker T-shirt (not so much). One guideline for this – anything that really nails consultants probably has a slightly lesser chance of qualifying. Just saying.



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