Financial Glossary – S
S&P 500 – also known as the Standard & Poor’s 500, is a stock market index that includes the 500 largest companies (in terms of total market capitalization) listed on the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ.
Safe Harbor – a provision in a regulation, law, contract or agreement that affords protection from penality, oversight or liability under certain circumstances, or if a number of specified conditions are met. The term may also refer to a strategy that a buisness that is being targetted for a takeover might use to fend off the predatory company – it acquires a heavily-regulated firm, thus discouraging the acquiring company from going ahead with the hostile takeover.
Salary – money that is given as payment from an employer that an employee has worked for. Salaries are expressed monthly or annually and are paid every month. Unlike wages, salaries are fixed and do not vary if the employee worked overtime.
Satisficing – accepting what is good enough rather than trying to get the best option possible. The satisficer tends to be happier with his or her decision, compared to the maximizer (the one who strives for the best possible option). When having to make several decisions at the same time, satisficing is usually a more effective strategy – sometimes it is the only realistic one. The term is a portmanteau of Satisfying and Sufficing.
Savings – the amount of money left over after our consumer spending is subtracted from our disposable income. The portion of our disposable income that we do not spend on consumer goods. Money we put aside for a rainy day, a future project, or an expected future expense, such as college fees or retirement. The term can also mean to economize, as in: “Tremendous savings can be made if you shop around before purchasing a new car.”
Savings Account – also known as a deposit account, is a bank account that provides principal security and a moderate interest rate. There are several types of ‘savings accounts’ today which are really ‘checking accounts’.
Say’s Law – states that aggregate production (supply) automatically creates an equal quantity of aggregate demand. In other words, to boost an economy and get demand to increase, you first need to boost supply. Say’s law, also called the law of markets or Say’s law of markets, was introduced in 1803 by French economist Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832). John Keynes rejected Say’s law after observing what happened during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Keynes insisted that you need to boost demand first if you want economic growth during an economic downturn.
Scalability – a measure of how rapidly or slowly a system, company, or any entity can adapt to greater demand. If demand for a product or system grows, and a company can respond rapidly by increasing production, it has good scalability, especially if costs increase at a much slower rate. Software products have fantastic scalability – the first unit is extremely expensive to create, but subsequent copies are incredibly cheap to produce.
Scarcity – regarded as the fundamental economic problem that arises from the fact that resources are finite but human wants are not; they are infinite. It is a relative concept rather than an absolute one. For example, water is less scarce in the tropical rainforests of Latin America than in Chile’s Atacama desert. Determining how to make best use of scarce resources is what most economists focus on.
Scenario Analysis – a method of predicting what a company, portfolio, economy or any entity might be like in the future if certain potential events occur. We use scenario analysis to analyze and predict possible future events by considering alternative potential outcomes, known as alternative worlds.
Search Costs – the cost of seeking and finding what you want. When you buy something, the economic cost involved is more than just its price. You spend time and money gathering data, going to different market places to compare features, offers and prices. Search costs form an important part of consumers’ decision-making.
Seasonally Adjusted – refers to a statistical technique to take out the effects of seasonal influences operating on a series. Sales of many products, unemployment trends and construction activity, for example, rise or fall every summer and increase or decline each winter. In order to determine whether real growth or contraction has occurred, you need to seasonally adjust the figures.
Secondary Market – a market where existing financial instruments, such as stocks and bonds are traded. Investors sell to other investors in secondary markets, as opposed to primary markets, where companies and governments sell to investors. Also known as the aftermarket.
Secondary Mortgage Market – is the buying and selling of ongoing home loans (mortgages), which are usually bundled together and traded as MBS (mortgage-backed securities).
Second-Best Theory – an economics concept that if a requirement for achieving a desirable situation cannot be met, focusing on the requirements that can be satisfied may not necessarily be the second-best option – it could do more harm than good. You should not assume that the other components have not changed when one of them is not ‘good’, the theory states. It is also known as the Theory of the Second Best.
Secured Loan – this is a type of loan where the borrower puts up an asset, such as a car or real estate property, as security (collateral). If he or she defaults the lender can seize the asset and recover all or some of the money lent by selling it.
Securities – securities are financial instruments, contracts that are given a value and then traded (such as bonds), i.e. any evidence of ownership or debt that has been assigned a value and may be traded.
Securitization – involves bundling up several different loans into a bond-like investment and selling those bonds to capital market investors. Banks and other lending institutions can move debts and risk off their balance sheets and get cash. Securitization involves a process of taking illiquid assets and converting them into a security through financial engineering.
Seed Capital – money invested in a business or project during its very early stage – the idea or conceptual stage. This type of funding typically involves a family member or close friend. Also known as seed funding or seed money.
Seigniorage – the profit the government makes by printing bank notes and producing new coins. You can calculated seigniorage by subtracting the cost of making and distributing money from its market value. If it costs the government $0.05 to produce a one-dollar bill, the seigniorage is 95 cents. Paper and electronic money have a significantly higher seigniorage than metal coins, which are more expensive to create.
Seller’s Market – when demand exceeds supply and sellers have the upper hand. Prices are higher (than in a buyer’s market), and goods & services are sold more rapidly.
Selling Price – the price the customer pays for something. It is the price for which something sells. Selling price contrasts with cost price, which is how much the company paid its supplier. It is important for a company to get its selling price right.
Seniority – in the workplace it is about whether an employee is ranked higher or lower than another worker. If you have seniority over another person, it means you outrank them. Seniority may be determined by the number of years the person has been working for his or her employer, or how effective they are at their job – their work performance. When a company goes bankrupt, debts are paid off according to seniority – ‘senior’ debts are paid off first.
Sequencing – when a country’s economy is in trouble, in order to get financial help and expertise from organizations such as the IMF (International Monetary Fund), it will have to implement a series of economic reforms. Sequencing refers to the order in which they need to be introduced for the malfunctioning economy to recover and thrive. Just introducing the correct set of reforms in any order does not work, many economists say – sequencing really matters.
Services – the non-physical part of the economy. The economy consists of goods and services. Goods are tangible things – you can handle or touch them – such as a car. Services are intangible things – you cannot handle them – such as car repairs. The vast majority of the rich countries’ economies consist of services today; this was not the case one hundred years ago.
Shadow Banking System – refers to the activities of non-deposit taking financial institutions such as hedge funds, monoline insurance firms, investment banks, and other unregulated entities. Shadow banks look like banks, behave like banks, and do the things that banks do, but below the regulator’s radar.
Shadow Economy – also known as the informal sector, is part of the economy where all work and business is done ‘below the radar’, i.e. none of it is registered, taxes on income and profits are not paid, and state rules and regulations are ignored. The shadow economy exists in every single country in the world, and ranges as a proportion of GDP from 7% in the United States to 94% in Uganda. People operate within the shadow economy either deliberately, because they want to evade taxes and regulations, or because they have no choice – they would not survive otherwise.
Shadow Price – the real price of a project, good or service for which there is no market price, the price is hard to estimate, or whose price does not properly reflect the real sacrifice made. Also known as shadow pricing, it involves estimating how much it would cost to continue using a resource, comparing that cost to the expected benefit it would bring, and then deciding whether to go ahead or not. If the expected benefit exceeds the cost, the project, plan or strategy should be approved.
Share – a unit of account for financial instruments, such as the stock market, limited partnerships, and investment trusts.
Share Capital – a company’s capital that came from investors who have bought shares. The calculation uses the nominal share price. The term can also refer to a company’s share structure.
Shareholder – a person, government, institution or any entity that owns one or more shares in a company. Shareholders are the owners of the company. Also known as a stockholder.
Shareholder Rebellion – when a company’s shareholders to not agree with decisions made by its Board of Directors and challenge them. Sometimes the aim might be to get rid of current Board members.
Shares Outstanding – all the shares that a company has issued or authorized, and are owned by investors and company officials. Also known as issued shares, outstanding stock or outstanding shares.
Shareholder Value – many say that this is senior management’s top priority. Shareholder value, also referred to as the shareholder value model or shareholder value maximization, is a business term that implies that how well a company and its senior management have performed depends on how much richer the shareholders have become. If the value of the business’ shares increased significantly, there has been effective shareholder value maximization.
Sharpe Ratio – a way of measuring the real return on an investment, fund or portfolio after adjusting for risk. The Sharpe ratio is extremely useful when investors want to compare two or more investment options, because market volatility is factored out – thus flattening out the returns as if the risk were the same for all investment opportunities. Investors and potential investors use the Sharpe ratio – which is also called the Sharpe Index, reward-to-variability ratio, and Sharpe measure – as a rough guide to whether an investment’s, fund’s or portfolio’s expected rewards justify the risk.
Shelf Company – a company that has been legally established, but has no activity. The owner set it up with the aim of doing business at a later date or selling it. Also known as ready-made company, aged company, blank check company, or shelf corporation. (in this context the words ‘corporation’ and ‘company’ are interchangeable).
Shell Company – a company without any current business activity or significant assets. While many are set up for legitimate purposes, they are popular among money launderers, funders of terrorist activities, and tax avoiders. Also known as a shell corporation, front company, or personal investment company.
Short Position – the sale of a borrowed security, currency, or commodity.
Short-Termism – in business and finance, the term refers to an approach that focuses on short-term results instead of long-term objectives. Business leaders and policymakers who are doing things that make their company or country better off now and in the short run, but worse of in the end, suffer from short-termism.
Signaling – when you do not have all the information regarding a product, you have to interpret the market signals, such as buying-selling behaviors of insiders, or announcements made by company CEOs regarding dividend payouts, etc. If a company announces that this year’s dividend payout will be 28% higher than last year, the signals picked up by the market players is that the business is doing well and probably has a promising future. When looking at the resume (CV) of a job applicant, the employer will be interested in that person’s education credentials more as a productivity signal rather than the specific details of each course.
Silver – silver is a precious metal often bought as an investment or store of value. Find out what drives the price of silver and its risks (such as extreme price volatility).
Single Market – a group of nations that trade with each other without imposing import taxes, thus creating one large market. Examples include the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement. Some single markets aim for total economic union.
Sino-Foreign Cooperative Joint Venture – a joint venture agreement between a Chinese and foreign company. This type of joint venture gives the foreign company more flexibility than a SJV.
Sino-Foreign Equity Joint Venture (SJV) – a limited liability company which has the status of a Chinese legal person.
Sister Company – two companies with the same parent company are sister companies, they are both subsidiaries of the same company.
Smart Contract – lines of code that make a contract function automatically instead of relying on lawyers or other intermediaries. It is a self-executing contract.
Smart Money – can mean: 1. Investments by experts who can spot or foretell market trends. 2. The collective force of big money that can shift markets. 3. Venture capital where the investors also put in their own time and provide know how and advice. 4. Where the good bets are going (gambling). It is the opposite of dumb money or stupid money.
Social Capital – the value of human networks. The term refers to the collective value of all human networks and the tendency that arises from these networks for people to trust each other and do things together.
Social Commerce – a type of e-commerce that utilizes online social networks to drive the purchase and sale of products and services. Social commerce uses online communities, ratings, F-commerce, social advertising, shares, and stores inside the social networking website to buy and sell goods and services.
Social Currency – the economic value of each individual’s or entity’s relationships, both in real life and online. Companies have become aware of social currency and are actively weaving their brands into social networking sites, blogs, forums and other environments in order to create social currency for them, i.e. get people to include their brands when they interact with each other.
Social Media – the collective of online communications channels in which people, companies and organizations create and share content in blogs and social networking sites. The apps (applications) and websites are dedicated to forums, social bookmarking, social networking, product and service reviews, social curation, virtual worlds, wikis and other kinds of social media.
Socialism: a term with many meanings, ranging from pure communism to a free-market system with a minimum safety net for vulnerable people. In socialism, unlike communism, private property is allowed. However, socialists support more government intervention than capitalists do.
Socially Responsible Investing – investing money into businesses that conform to a set of ethical, moral and/or environmental standards. The socially responsible investor may refuse to invest in companies that sell tobacco products, weapons, or those that are high polluters. Also known as sustainable investing, socially conscious investing, green investing, ethical investing or SRI.
Soft Loan – a loan in which the interest rate is either very low or zero. Sometimes the borrower is given longer-than-normal repayment periods as well as interest holidays. Also known as concessional funding or soft financing. The World Bank provides soft loans to developing nations for worthwhile projects.
Soft Brexit – leaving the European Union but keeping some of its features, including free access to the EU market, the customs union, and passporting rights. However, in order to have these benefits the country would have to sign up to the free movement of people. The opposite of a Soft Brexit is a Hard Brexit, in which total border control is regained, but unfettered access to the EU market is lost, as are passporting rights.
Soft Currency – also called a weak currency, is one that people trust less than a hard currency. A soft currency loses its purchasing power over time in relation to hard currencies. Business people prefer to carry out international transactions with hard rather than soft currencies. A soft currency is the least popular for central banks as far as holding foreign exchange reserves are concerned. Developing nations tend to have soft currencies, while the advanced economies have hard currencies.
Software – all the programs – instructions and codes – within a computer that make it possible to use it. The physical parts of a technical device are called the hardware. Software refers to the programs that perform specific tasks. Without software, none of our technical equipment would work.
Solvency – a business’, person’s or entity’s ability to meet long-term financial obligations. Solvency equals total assets divided by total liabilities. If the result is greater than 1, the company is solvent, if it is less than 1 it is insolvent. Liquidity and solvency have different meanings – the article explains the meaning of each term.
Spam – mass mailing online by sending promotional messages and materials to thousands and even millions of people simultaneously. All the messages are identical. They are unsolicited online messages, i.e., the receivers did not ask for them. Spam only refers to online messages. Junk mail has the same meaning, but includes both digital and real world messages.
Specialization – the opposite of diversification, refers to companies selling off divisions not closely related to their core activities, so that they can focus resources in specialized areas and thus become more streamlined and profitable. Workforce specialization, also called the ‘division of labor’, means individual people specializing in what they are good at, and working in just those areas. Specialization may refer to individuals, studies, careers, companies, organizations, communities, regions and even whole nations.
Speculation – an investment in which the investor wants to make a quick profit. Speculation involves placing money in short-term investments that carry high risk. However, they also provide the opportunity to make great gains rapidly. The person involved in speculation is called an investor.
Speculative Investment – an investment where all that matters, as far as the purchaser is concerned, is the short-term profit that can be made when it is sold. Traders in speculative investments are known as speculators. They are not interested in the annual income or dividends an investment may provide, but just its price fluctuation and making a profit.
Sponsor – as a verb it means to pay for part or all of the costs involved in staging an artistic or sporting event in return for advertising. The person, company or entity that does this is called a sponsor. To sponsor may also mean to pledge to donate money to somebody in a charitable endeavor, such as offering to contribute a certain amount for each mile run in a marathon. A company that pays for the broadcasting of a TV program such as a soap opera is its official sponsor.
Spot Market – a public financial market where commodities and financial instruments are traded for immediate delivery, or two to three days at the most. Also called the physical market or cash market.
Spot Price – the market price at which something is bought and sold for payment and delivery now. The spot price contrasts with the futures price or forward price, which is the price at which an asset – a commodity, security or currency – can be purchased or sold for delivery at a future date.
Spread – the difference between the prices of one item or interest rate on different days, or two items or interest rates on the same date. The term can be used for insurance underwriting, share trading, bond values, or virtually any type of security or commodity.
Stability – something that most central banks and governments across the world strive for. An economically stable economy is one that experiences small changes in GDP growth rates, and long-term low inflation. For economic stability to exist in a country, it needs a stable political system, usually a free market economy, good levels of infrastructure, technological development, and human capital.
Stagflation – an economy is in a stagflation rut when GDP growth is either very slow or absent, unemployment is too high, prices are rising too fast, and demand is weak. Policymakers have a serious problem when stagflation strikes, because anything they do to bring down inflation is likely to slow down economic growth even further, kill demand, and exacerbate the unemployment problem – and any measures taken to address slow GDP growth, unemployment, or demand will push up inflation.
Stakeholder – anyone (or group of people) who have an interest in a company or organization are considered to be stakeholders.
Standby Credit – funds made available to lower income nations that find themselves with temporary balance of payments problems, or experience unforeseen catastrophes, such as floods or earthquakes. An example is the IMF Standby Credit Facility.
Statistical Significance – refers to how reliable a statistic is. If something is statistically significant, it means that the finding is reliable and is highly unlikely to be the result of chance or happenstance. In the world of statistics, ‘significant’ does not mean ‘important’, it means ‘reliable’ or ‘unlikely to be due to chance’.
Statistics – has two meanings. In singular form it is the subject – e.g. statistics, economics, mathematics, biology, etc. In the plural form it refers to the numbers – e.g. statistics are pointing to an accelerating incidence of obesity across the country.
Statistician – a person who gathers, analyzes, interprets and presents numerical, quantitative data – statistics. They might work in a wide range of fields and sectors, including transportation, finance, government, education, forensics, astronomy, market research and many more. They need to be good at mathematics, dealing with people, and making presentations.
Sterilized Intervention – the buying of foreign currency by a country’s central bank to influence the value of the domestic currency, without changing the money supply. When the central bank purchases or sells some of its foreign currency reserves, the country’s money supply may be affected. This effect can be ‘sterilized’ if the government buys or sells the equivalent amount of securities, such as Treasury bonds.
Sticky Prices – prices that do not respond rapidly to changes in demand, supply, production or delivery costs. Sticky prices are the opposite of flexible prices. The price of a dollar in currency exchange markets is flexible – it changes by the minute. The prices of hotel rooms, on the other hand, take several months to respond to changes in the market’s environment – hotel rooms have sticky prices.
Stock Index – a computed average of a sample of share prices, representing either a particular sector, market, the whole economy, a country, or a geographical area. Examples include the S&P 500 and FTSE 100. Also called a stock market index or a share index.
Stock Market – refers to the whole market where shares (stocks, equity) are bought and sold. The stock market includes what occurs in stock exchanges, as well as over-the-counter transactions.
Stocks – in finance, the term refers to company shares, hence the term ‘stocks and shares’ and the ‘stock market’. Stocks in a warehouse means goods stored for future orders or deliveries – a reserve of products for future use. Government stocks, in British English, refers to one of the bonds sold by the government to finance its budget deficit – government bonds. The expression on the stocks, which comes from shipbuilders, means ‘under construction’.
Stock Split – an increase in the total number of a company’s shares outstanding, accompanied by a proportionate decline in the value of each share. Dilution does not occur in a stock split. Also known as a share split or stock divide.
Stock Swap – when a corporation offers a certain number of its shares for each share of another company. Often occurs during an acquisition. In most cases, some cash is also included in the transaction. Also known as a stock-for-stock, share-for-share exchange, or share exchange.
Stress Testing – a series of simulated scenarios that banks, other financial institutions, investment portfolios, and even whole economies are exposed to, to determine how well they might fare against economic shocks. Ever since the 2007/8 global financial crisis and Great Recession that followed, financial institutions across the world have had to undergo stress testing, to determine their ability to deal with a simulated economic crisis.
Structural Unemployment – unemployment that is not caused by the cyclical changes in the economic cycle – such as declining demand – but rather from changes in the structure of the economy itself. Technological advancements, such as artificial intelligence and robotics, i.e. automation, can reduce the size of a company’s workforce. The workers who are laid off do not have the skills that employers are looking for, such as robot operators – so there is a mismatch between the available unemployed workforce and what companies are looking for.
Subprime Mortgage – a type of mortgage that is made out to borrowers who have a very low credit rating.
Subsidiary – a company that is at least 50% owned by a parent company or holding company. The holding company has a controlling interest. The subsidiary can be any type of commercial enterprise, such as a limited liability company, a corporation, or a state-owned business.
Subsidy – money the government gives directly to companies, farmers, organizations, individuals and other entities to encourage production, increase exports, promote research, prevent companies from going bankrupt, reduce joblessness, or make the price of a food, product, service or utility more affordable. There are many types of subsidies.
Substitute Goods – often referred to as simply Substitutes, are two or more products that can replace each other; they can be used by consumers for the same purpose. Examples include Coke and Pepsi, Crest and Colgate (toothpaste), or MacDonald’s or Burger King hamburgers. When the price of one rises, demand for the other goes up – the two products have a positive cross-elasticity of demand.
Sunk Costs – money that has already been spent which you will never get back; it is not recoverable. If a company spends money on research and development, advertising, or building a new plant, that expenditure has gone – it is not possible to claw back the money. Rather than continue funding a project which probably won’t help the company make money, senior management should cut their losses – accept the expenditure as a sunk cost – and focus on other things.
Supply and Demand – the most fundamental concept in economics is supply and demand, it plays a huge role in determining the prices of goods and services in a market economy.
Supply-Side Policies – the term describes economic policies aimed at influencing output and employment through their impact on the supply-side of the economy. This contrasts with Keynesian economics, which focuses on demand-side policies – boosting demand. In the 1980s, US President Ronald Reagan and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher pursued supply-side policies.
Surety Bond – an agreement between three parties – Principal, Surety and Obligee. The Surety is an insurance company that provides a financial guarantee to the Obligee (usually the government) that the Principal (business owner) will fulfill all their obligations. Essentially, a surety bond is a risk transfer mechanism. Evidence of a contract of suretyship dates back to 2750 BC.
Sustainable Growth – the term may be used for a company or a whole economy, and refers to its ability to grow consistently without hitting problems or creating problems for the future. Sustainable growth is also used when talking about the environment – specifically, economic growth over the long term without using up all the non-renewable resources, polluting the planet, or contributing to global warming.
SWIFT Code (BIC Code) – a SWIFT code contains 11 characters. It is a form of bank identification which helps facilitate international wire transfers.
SWOT Analysis – a technique that helps people or organisations identify key strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This type of analysis helps the individual or organization plan a strategy. We also call it a SWOT Matrix. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
Syndicated Loan – also known as a syndicated bank facility, is a loan where a number of banks and/or financial institutions form a group (syndicate) and lend money to one borrower, usually a corporation, government or large project.
Systemic Risk – risk that could affect the whole economy, usually because a company that is ‘too big to fail’ collapses. Companies that are ‘too big to fail’ are typically major banks – if a major bank collapses, other banks that it owes money to will have problems, people get to hear about it and clusters of bank runs ensue…,etc. Governments will generally bail out a troubled large financial institution because of the systemic risk. Opponents say they shouldn’t, because knowing that they will be rescued encourages behaviors that increase systemic risk.
Systems Management – an IT term that refers to the centralized management of a company’s or any entity’s information technology. This ‘umbrella term’ comprises several tasks required to monitor and manage IT systems. Virtually every type of organization, such as charities, schools, universities, religious organizations, healthcare services and trade unions have personnel specialized in systems management.