“To Fall Asleep at the Wheel”: Financial Expression of the Day

Asleep at the wheel

Don’t fall asleep at the wheel while formatting the 34th draft of the client presentation.

To fall asleep at the wheel,verb phrase, to fail to do one’s duty; to make a significant mistake.  Usage note:  Slingers of finance lingo recognize that this expression has the same definition as “to drop the ball.”  They prefer the latter though and use it more often because Wall Streeters, some of whom are former athletes but more of whom are jock wannabes, love that good locker room banter (especially in the cases of investment bankers and analysts because it makes them feel like the more rough and tumble traders, of whom they are usually terrified). 

The jargon-spouting investment banker who is actually self-aware enough to know that he’s been using “drop the ball” too often will get out of the rut by using today’s expression instead.  An advanced speaker of finance patois might show off by varying things up even more with “fall asleep at the switch.”  An investment banker sufficiently silver-tongued to give equal air time to all three expressions is a true master of finance malarkey.  However, it cannot be emphasized enough that such self-awareness among the i-banking set is extraordinarily rare, and once most bankers latch onto a new silly expression, they beat that cliché-saddled horse well past its trip to the glue factory.  Trying to sound inspirational, a vice president, when returning the pitchbook draft, now full of his preposterously anal edits (a.k.a. “nits”) to a jittery associate, might say, “This is a very important meeting, so we don’t want to fall asleep at the wheel here.  This pitchbook has to be perfect.”  What he means by his pep talk is that he’ll never forgive you and treat you like an infant in all future interactions if the font size on the page 10 footnote doesn’t match the one on page 72.


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