Why do bankers call things “sexy”?😅
Updated: Jun 15
If you work in wealth management (or had the misfortune to be surrounded by people who do), you’ve likely heard this strange turn of phrase. Out of the blue, and completely unironically, bankers casually refer to mundane or technological things as "sexy". The back-end of an e-banking system? Sexy. Code which automates some drab compliance function? Sexy. A Calibri Sans PowerPoint? Sexy.
WHHYYYYYY???????? If you're as baffled about this as me, don't worry. There are at least two of us who don't find rows of numbers and obscure financial concepts sexy. Which is somewhat reassuring. To help us unravel our brains, here are the best four theories I could come up with to explain this seriously weird choice of adjective...
1. It's a clever strategy to keep employees awake
The first time I ever heard it, I was in the world’s most boring meeting in Zurich, trying to suppress a yawn.
A banker more ancient than Yoda flapped his paper spreadsheet in the air and demanded, “How can we really SEX THIS UP!?” I nearly projectile vomited my coffee. That was the worst combo of words, speaker, and topic ever. It was like a terrible shot of adrenaline. We may all need therapy afterwards, but calling mundane things "sexy" in meetings does keep people awake. Stronger than coffee and longer lasting too. Gahhh...
2. They’ve spent too much time in the office
Today – no word of a lie - I heard this, “the really sexy thing about banking is actually the plumbing”. I paused the webinar. Put my glasses on. And looked at this man. Really looked into his eyes. And do you know what I saw? Bags. Proper ones. Deep, dark bags of tiredness. Of course he's delusional. This is a man who has spent too much time at the office. The only time he gets ploughed is by compliance paperwork.
If you work with someone who habitually describes financial technology as “sexy”, they may be desperately in need of some affection at home. Unless you want to find them dry-humping a modem under the desk, be a good sport and help them leave the office at a reasonable hour.
3. Normalising inappropriate comments
Ok, so this is a more sinister perspective. But it’s FAIR GAME to include. Like most (all?) women in finance, I’ve had my share of inappropriate comments. Especially in Zurich - which seemed gently swing between perv-ville and snooze-fest most of the time. The same man who bombarded us with “How can we really SEX THIS UP?” once whispered gruffly in my ear, “In the next life, I’ll make you my wife”… Oh gee. Thanks. That's something to look forward to. Yoda really had a skill for making me vomit in my mouth.
As I recall, there were a good handful of directors who demanded sex in their spreadsheets, while encouraging it between their bedsheets too… Co-incidence? Or a systemic way of normalising inappropriate behaviour? Hmmm….
4. They have a limited vocabulary
Some people are better with numbers. Fair enough. Maybe they just can’t find the right word, so they settled for "sexy". We’ve all been there. Probably loads of wealth directors wake up at 4am every day, sit bolt upright and proclaim, “Efficient!!! That’s the one I was looking for!!”.
If you’re a wealth manager with writer’s block, don’t worry, I'm here to help. With a little research, there should usually be alternatives to “sexy”. The next time you find yourself describing a new formula or market update, take a moment to see if any of the following might apply…
Cutting-edge, avant-garde, original, state-of-the-art, inventive, innovative, creative, visionary, inspired, efficient, artistic, elegant, sophisticated, refined, imaginative, resourceful, productive, unique, or special.
Instead of "sexy" can we aim for "sustainable"?
Or a new idea...Maybe we shouldn’t try to be “sexy” at all. We’re not the Kardashians. We’re not selling bikinis. We’re wealth managers. And if you're imagining a wealth manager showing off a massive bum in a bikini right now, that's on you.
Our business is risk tolerance, affordability checks, monitoring the market ... and all those other important (but definitely not sexy) things. We're here to help people manage their wealth and fulfil their goals. Ideally by not destroying the planet. We don't need to be "sexy". It's completely irrelevant. And if you feel that pressure, that's something to address privately with a therapist.
So, here’s my grand idea. Could sleazy old wealth managers please try to replace the word “sexy” with one of these …?
Inclusive, Sustainable, Diverse, Impactful, Equitable, Equal
“How can we really impact this up?”, demanded the Yoda the director. “The really inclusive thing about banking is actually the plumbing”, wheezed the very tired banker on the webinar. Let’s normalise THESE words. Let's make THIS our aim.
Nobody wants to hear their boss or wealth managers using words like "sexy". But everyone wants to invest their money and direct their work towards saving the planet. Come on wealth managers! Put that modem down, stop saying "sexy" and start acting sustainable. 💪🌿😘