Financial and business jargon buster

Most professions develop a language of their own. You will feel more confident in job interviews if you know some of the financial, accounting and business buzzwords. Just don’t go overboard when using them yourself!


Alternative Investment Market. The London Stock Exchange’s market for smaller, young and growing companies that allows them to float shares with a more flexible regulatory system than on the main stock market. Investments in companies listed on AIM are riskier but can bring higher returns.


A ballpark figure is a rough estimate, an off-the-cuff guess. Another name for a ‘guesstimate’.

Best practice

A set of guidelines or standards that represent the most efficient and ethical course of action. Best practices are usually set by governing or regulatory bodies, such as ACCA, or by a company’s management.

Bottom line

The last line of a company’s financial statement, showing net profit or loss. Now also used in everyday speech, meaning ‘the deciding or crucial factor’ or ‘the ultimate result’.


An acronym for the combined economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The BRICS are all developing or newly industrialised countries, with large, fast-growing economies and significant influence on regional and global affairs.

Business plan

A document prepared by a management team describing in detail how a new business is going to achieve its goals, from a marketing, financial and operational viewpoint. A business plan can also be prepared for an established business that wants to move in a new direction.


A process by which business decisions are analysed. The benefits of a proposed business action are calculated and then the costs associated with taking that action are subtracted. It’s not easy to do since it requires valuations of intangible items like the effects on the environment.


A product, service or outcome that must be completed and delivered under the terms of an agreement or contract.

Due diligence

A detailed analysis and appraisal of a business by specialists such as accountants and lawyers, to find out any ‘skeletons in the cupboard’.

Elevator pitch

A very brief speech (usually less than 60 seconds) that outlines an idea for a product, service or project. Everyone who is job searching should have an elevator speech at the ready too – in this case, a quick summary of their skills and qualifications.

Ethical investing

Also called Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), sustainable, socially conscious or ‘green’ investing. It stands for any investment strategy that seeks to consider both financial return and social good.

Ethical wall

A communication barrier between members or departments of the same organisation that is put in place to ensure that confidential or sensitive information is not exchanged, leading to conflicts of interest.


The 18 European Union member states that have adopted the euro as their common currency.


An informal term for the FTSE100 Index, or FTSE100, a share index of the 100 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange with the highest market capitalisation. 


The group of seven major industrialised economies, comprising the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan.


The G20 membership comprises the world’s largest advanced and emerging economies, representing about two-thirds of the world’s population and over 75% of global trade. The members of the G20 are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, the US and the European Union. The group gained in significance after their leaders agreed how to tackle the 2008–09 financial crisis at G20 gatherings.


‘Generally accepted accounting principles’ that companies use to compile their financial statements. Most countries have their own GAAPs although, in Europe and many other parts of the world, countries are now adopting the international financial reporting standards (IFRS).


Gross domestic product. A measure of economic activity in a country –namely of all the services and goods produced in a year. 


A combination of the words 'globalisation' and 'localisation' is used to describe a product or service that is developed and distributed globally, but is also tailored to suit the consumer in a local market. Think of McDonald's restaurants – they are all over the world but the menu changes depending on location to appeal to local palates.

Going concern

A company that has all the resources needed in order to continue to operate for the foreseeable future. If a company is not a going concern, it means it’s bankrupt.


The system of rules, practices and processes by which a company is managed and controlled. Corporate governance involves balancing the interests of the many stakeholders in a company – its shareholders, management, customers, suppliers, government and the community.


The International Monetary Fund is an organisation set up to provide financial assistance, such as rescue loans, to the governments of countries that run into debt problems. The IMF is traditionally and somewhat controversially headed by an European individual.


The upward price movement of goods and services.

Keynesian economics

The economic theories of John Maynard Keynes encompassing the belief that the state can, in the short run and especially during recessions, stimulate demand in a stagnating economy – for example, by borrowing money to spend on public works projects such as roads, schools and hospitals.


An acronym referring to the economies of Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey, tipped as the next group of countries after the BRICS to emerge as the world’s economic giants.

Non-financial reporting

The level of interest from stakeholders in corporate environmental, social and ethical performance has risen significantly. Non-financial reporting, often referred to as sustainability reporting, enables businesses to be transparent in communicating these non-financial aspects of their management and performance.


A not-for-profit organisation – typically a charity – does not earn profits for its owners. All profits must be retained by the organisation for its self-preservation or expansion.


Describes the economic philosophies of the US President Barack Obama – for example, that the rich should pay their fair share of taxes. Obamanomics may also include the president’s views on healthcare reform, although this is often called ‘Obamacare’.

Private client services

Services provided by accountancy firms to individuals, trusts and partnerships (as opposed to companies), including advice and assistance on their tax affairs.

Public practice

A firm that provides accountancy services to its clients as independent professional advisers and not as the clients’ employees. This can be contrasted with working ‘in the industry’ – ie in the accounting department of non-accounting business, such as a manufacturing company. 


A major change in the structure, debt or operations of a company, usually made when there are significant problems putting the business in jeopardy. 

Risk management

The identification, assessment, monitoring and minimisation of risks that companies face from uncertainty in financial markets, project failures, legal liabilities, accidents, natural disasters and deliberate attacks. 

Sharing economy

A new economic model in which individuals are able to borrow or rent assets owned by someone else. ‘Accessing’ rather than ‘owning’ things is also referred to as collaborative consumption. 

Social responsibility

The idea that companies shouldn’t be solely focused on maximising profits but that they should act to benefit society at large.

Thought leadership

A thought leader is an individual or firm that is recognised as an authority in a field whose expertise is sought by others. 


A situation in which the outcome benefits each of two often opposing groups – for example, ‘a win-win proposition for the buyer and the seller’.


The ‘extra’ features of a product, service or a person that go beyond what is commonly expected.

Virtual currency

A type of digital money, for example Bitcoin, which is issued and usually controlled by its developers, and used and accepted by members of a specific virtual community. 


Companies that continue to operate even though they are insolvent or near bankruptcy.