The scene: Vikram Pandit’s office at 399 Park Avenue. Pandit is pacing uncomfortably in front of Sandy Weill’s old fireplace. Through the door enters Jim Forese, head of Citi’s capital markets group.
Pandit: Jim. Have a seat.
Forese: Mr Pandit.
Pandit: I’ve got your memo here.
Forese: The one announcing "a new Global Markets structure that rebalances our product set to reflect better each underlying asset class and creates a regional matrix to ensure our activities are well coordinated locally"?
Pandit: That’s the one. I’m sorry, Jim, but it’s far too simple and direct.
Forese: I do apologize, Mr Pandit, I’m better at making money than I am at announcing org-chart changes. Which bit did you have a problem with?
Pandit: Well, look here. "We are focused on our core clients." It’s a short, declarative sentence, only seven words long. And anybody can understand it.
Forese: Oh. Yes, I see that now.
Pandit: Let’s see if we can’t obfuscate it a little. These clients, they basically fall into two groups, right?
Forese: Issuers and investors, right.
Pandit: Jim, will you never learn? People understand who issuers and investors are. Let’s call them "origination and distribution clients".
Forese: Ah, OK. "We are focused on our core origination and distribution clients." Yes, that’s much less comprehensible.
Pandit: Jim, we’re only getting started. How about that "we"? Can’t we beef that up a bit too? I think this is a great opportunity to use the word "client-centric" — after all, you know that every time you use that term in a memo, you get an extra $500,000 in your bonus.
Forese: I thought that talking about being focused on clients was enough?
Pandit: Well, it normally would be, but if you say it twice in the same sentence, you get a million-dollar bonus right there.
Forese: We’re a client-centric organization that’s focused on our clients?
Pandit: Very good, Jim, we’ll turn you into a Citi man yet. Let’s shuffle that in to what we’ve got already. So now, "we are a client-centric organization focused on our core origination and distribution clients".
Forese: I like it. But if we’re client-centric twice, shouldn’t we be focused twice too?
Pandit: You are a fast learner! "Focused" is the same as "focused most heavily". And no bank is friendlier to extraneous adverbs than Citi!
Forese: Maybe we should be focusing most heavily, that makes us sound more like a bank which never sleeps. Once you’re focused, you can sleep. But if you’re focusing, you can’t be sleeping.
Pandit: Good point. "We are a client-centric organization focusing most heavily on our core origination and distribution clients". But what are you focusing?
Forese: Huh? Ah. More words! "We are a client-centric organization focusing our resources most heavily on our core origination and distribution clients". Ooh, this is getting good.
Pandit: And if you can’t just be focused, you can’t just be client-centric, either. We can add some verbal MSG here, I think.
Forese: I know! "We are committed to being a client-centric organization focusing our resources most heavily on our core origination and distribution clients".
Pandit: No, no, it’s still not flatulent enough. You can’t be focused, you have to be focusing. You can’t be committed, you have to… have to…
Forese: I’ve got it. "We are affirming our commitment to be a client-centric organization focusing our resources most heavily on our core origination and distribution clients."
Pandit: I love it. Affirming! You get an extra half-mil for that alone. Now just add a little throat-clearing at the beginning, and you’re good to go.
Forese: "At the same time, we are affirming our commitment to be a client-centric organization focusing our resources most heavily on our core origination and distribution clients."
Pandit: Very good, I give you a triple-A rating! Now, go off and make sure the rest of the memo reads like that, there’s a good chap.
Forese: Yes, Mr Pandit.
Pandit: And show in the next pupil on your way out.