Financial Fridays with Julie Pratten – Accountability

Friday 16 January 2015

by Julie Pratten

Welcome to Financial Fridays, the first of a series of posts on Banking and Financial English.  I am Julie Pratten, author of Absolute Banking English and Absolute Financial English, and I will be providing you with a bi-weekly helping of buzz words, some hot topics in the world of banking and finance as well as ideas for activities that can be used as warmers or fillers or full-blown lessons. We will kick off this first Financial Friday with a feature on accountability, a word that has been on many people’s lips since the global banking crisis of 2008.

If you have any requests about any particular aspect of banking and finance, we would love to hear from you, so please feel free to post your questions.

This Financial Friday features:

• BANKING BUZZ – a handful of banking buzzwords. Why not send us your favourites­?

• FINANCIAL FOCUS – Accountability has become a hot topic in recent years. Why not put your bankers on the spot? Do they feel responsible? Do they care when their clients lose money due to reckless bankers? We think they should!

• BLUE CHIP LINKS – suggestions for further reading and listening material on our featured topic and more.



Select the correct answer, A or B?

1 A liar loan

a A loan which has insufficient documentation and raises suspicion that the applicant may have overstated their earnings or capital in the application.

B A loan which appears on the balance sheet but was not actually given by the bank.

2 Rainmaker

A A broker who successfully speculates against the market and makes a profit.

b A broker who has the capability to bring in numerous wealthy clients to the bank.

3 Wallpaper (colloquial)

a Bonds or securities that are worthless because of problems such as bankruptcy, so they could be used as wallpaper!

b The basic terms in a standard loan agreement.

4 Capital cushion

a A pool of funds that protects a bank if there is a sudden downturn in the economy.

b The minimum amount of capital banks must hold according to a Basle directive of 2010.

5 Take a bath

a The crime of money laundering by depositing funds in the accounts of several individuals.

b The situation where an investor has lost a huge amount as a result of speculation, causing its shares to drop.



Accountability: a word on everyone’s lips

For some time, many people have been quite vociferous that banks should be just as accountable for their errors as any other professionals and should be penalized for their negligence when they make mistakes that lead to losses of billions of pounds. Bankers have always got away with murder, blaming volatile markets or currencies, but hopefully those days are over. Let’s start with a definition; Accountability ‘The situation in which a bank takes responsibility for its activities; this includes any negligent actions, advice or decisions taken by the management.’


Part 1 Vocabulary Focus

Match words with similar meanings in the two columns.

1 malpractice A criminal
2 errant B trustworthy
3 fraudulent C mistaken
4 accountable D unprofessional work
5 reputable E responsible


Lead in

What is accountability?

Should bankers be accountable for their decisions? If so, how?

How should banks or individuals be penalized for poor advice or bad decisions?

Part 2 Read the article on the link about accountability and discuss.

Part 3 Speaking

Follow up discussion

Look at the quotes below. Which one do you agree with?

Choose one and prepare a 1 minute presentation explaining how you interpret it.

1 It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts.”
Mahatma Gandi

2 “A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”
Thomas Paine

3 “Each day you are leading by example. Whether you realize it or not or whether it’s positive or negative, you are influencing those around you.”
Rob Liano

4 “You can’t talk your way out of problems that you behaved yourself into.”

Steven Covey

5 “When you make a mistake, admit it.  If you don’t, you only make matters worse.”

Ward Cleaver



Listening TED lecture by Halla Tomasdottir:

A feminine response to Iceland’s financial crash..


Further materials on accountability can be found in units 11 and 12 of Absolute Banking English (Delta Publishing)



Banking Buzz 1 a, 2 b, 3, a , 4 a, 5 b/ Part 1/1 d, 2 c, 3 a, 4 e, 5 b

Copyright Julie Pratten 2015
Copyright this edition Delta Publishing 2015

One response to Financial Fridays with Julie Pratten – Accountability

  1. Sophie Rome says:

    Congratulations! I really love this new feature on your website. My students enjoyed using the material. Do you have any suggestions how we can use the TED lecture in class?

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