Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Article excerpt

MY husband-has been huffing and tutting, rather than puffing, almost every time he reads the word product used in a financial context.

It is certainly true that product pops up all over the place in sections of newspapers labelled Family Matters, Moneygo-Round, You and Yours or suchlike. Mr Mark Dickson, who is 'Director of Product Development at HSBC Asset Management', says, for instance, 'The longer the term of the product, the less chance there is that the index will fall.' Or the Mail on Sunday announces, 'Fans of National Savings, the state piggy bank, have reasons to be cheerful again. After two years in the doldrums, it is hitting back with new products.'

In these examples, product is intended to refer to a savings scheme offered by HSBC or National Savings. They have not produced anything, though, nor will anything be produced unless you hand over the rhino. The investment of money in shares or the 'state piggy bank' produces interest; if anything, it is the interest that is the product. The savings scheme is the production machinery, like a factory, tools or workforce.

The financial institutions call such schemes 'products' because they have the idea of selling them to the punter (saver). They use the term by analogy with things such as motor-cars that also need marketing. …

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