Zeitgeist 2022: Tearsheet’s guide to the financial terms nobody understands

  • There were a lot of disappointments last year. What never failed us, though, was the financial space's ability to invent new words.
  • We've updated our Termsheet for 2022 to help you sound like you know what we're all talking about.

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Zeitgeist 2022: Tearsheet’s guide to the financial terms nobody understands

The new year is here, and with it, a brand new world of virtual water cooler conversations full of terms and ideas everybody but you seem to understand. But do they really?

In our most critically analytic piece of each year, we bring you the backpocket cheatsheet guide for all the new and new-ish terms you need to know to stay in the loop in 2022.

Anything we missed? Let us know.


  • Agile: fast 
  • AI: “big data,” 2022 version 
  • Altcoin: a bitcoin alternative 
  • API: official permission to use someone else’s work 


  • BaaS: rent-a-charter 
  • Big data: so 2012 
  • Big Tech: surveillance capitalism 
  • Bitcoin: the unreliable cool uncle 
  • Block: Jack Dorsey really really likes blockchain 
  • Blockchain: a very secure Excel sheet 
  • BNPL: new ways to get poor 
  • Branch: site of a future Starbucks


  • CBDCs: the latest Chinese experiment 
  • Challenger banks: banks without a license 
  • Chatbot: do I sound human yet? 
  • Chief culture officer: chief ping-pong table installer
  • Climate fintech: greenwashing banks 
  • Community banks: small enough to survive 
  • Consumers: people 
  • Contactless: tapping a card instead of swiping it 
  • Conversational AI: if ‘you ask’, then you’ll get ‘a worthless answer’ 
  • Credit unions: community banks?
  • Cryptocurrency: what banks think will make them relevant 


  • Data aggregation: still screen scraping your information 
  • Decentralized autonomous organization: humans aren’t involved 
  • DeFi: losing business models taking on Visa and PayPal 
  • Democratize: lowering the barriers to entry, to get more customers 
  • Digital ambassadors: bank tellers
  • Digital identity: the real you 
  • Digital transformation: innovation theater 
  • Digital wallet: your wallet on a phone, sans cash and ID 
  • Disruptors: startups with big egos 


  • Ecosystem: everything you do should loop back to our products
  • Embedded finance: integrating someone else’s financial product 
  • Enterprise: for businesses, not for lowly humans
  • ESG: *eye roll* 
  • Ethereum: decentralized but still run by one person; see also: faster but not fast enough; see also: bitcoin’s little brother 
  • Ethereum 2.0: the ethereum that never comes 


  • Fee-free: your data’s getting sold 
  • Financial literacy: not being poor 
  • Financial wellness: being wealthy
  • Fintech: finance today 
  • Frictionless: easy 


  • Game changing: hoping you forgot the last time we did this 
  • Gen Z: new kids on the block(chain) 


  • High-tech, high-touch: we use both people and robots 


  • Incumbent banks: grownup banks
  • Incumbents: grownup people 
  • Innovation lab: adult playground (see: game changing) 


  • Jamie Dimon: loves blockchain, hates bitcoin


  • KYC: customer intake form 


  • Ledger: banking software on or off the blockchain 
  • LinkedIn: a noisy, expensive, and ineffective place to get B2B leads 


  • Machine learning: a machine that respond to you yelling at it
  • Marcus: a boomer fintech 
  • Metaverse: because Facebook couldn’t figure out crypto 
  • Money 20/20: nerds hungover in Vegas 


  • Native: you don’t need Safari or Chrome to use it 


  • Omnichannel: every channel 
  • Open banking: banks need to outsource creativity, via APIs


  • Participants: real people 
  • Payroll data: you still don’t qualify for this loan 
  • PFM: balancing your checkbook 
  • Pivot: our first idea didn’t really pan out 
  • Proof of stake: you’ve got skin in the game 
  • Proof of work: you’re mining 
  • Proof-of-concept: we’re waiting for the money to make this a thing 


  • Relationship building: when banks want to stalk you 
  • Remittance: money that costs money to send home overseas 
  • Revolutionary: hyped 
  • Robinhood: a Wall Street simulator 
  • Robo-advisors: you’ll end up talking to humans 


  • Satoshi Nakamoto: we don’t know if he exists, but apparently he made bitcoin 
  • Scale: grow 
  • Smart contract: you don’t need to argue with real people 
  • Solana: bitcoin for VCs 
  • SPAC: the poor man’s IPO 
  • Stablecoins: fiat currencies dressed up as cryptocurrencies 
  • Stripe: payments infrastructure focused on getting into your business next 
  • Super app: American jealousy of Chinese fintech 


  • Tearsheet: an outdated publication covering an outdated industry 


  • Ubiquitous: everywhere 
  • Unicorn: those special startups in the Three Comma Club
  • Users: people who downloaded our app once 


  • VC: mom and dad 
  • Venmo: how you stalk your ex 
  • Virtual cards: paying for things with your phone 


  • Web3: money on the internet 


  • XaaS (anything as a service): using the internet

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