Glossary

Welcome to Fineco’s Glossary! It will help you better understand the financial terminology and master your financial skills.

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Account balance

An account balance is the amount of money a person has in an account at a financial institution, such as a checking or savings account. It can be expressed as deposits minus withdrawals. An account’s balance can be found by logging on to the account through an online banking portal or by consulting a paper account statement.

Account Number

An account number is a unique series of digits (and sometimes letters) that identifies an individual account at a bank or financial institution. When combined with other bank identifier, an account number can be used to move money into and out of the holder’s account. Account numbers can be found at the bottom of cheques, or in some cases on bank statements or online banking portals.

Accrued Expense

Accrued expense is an accounting term for an expense that has been recorded in the books before it is actually paid. This can occur under the accrual method of accounting, where expenses and income are recorded when they are incurred (when the transaction actually takes place) rather than when the money is actually paid or received. Accrued expenses are considered liabilities (and are even sometimes called accrued liabilities) and are the opposite of prepaid expenses.

Here is an example of an accrued expense. Near the end of the month, a consultant provides services to an engineering firm. The consultant has already delivered the services, but they do not submit their invoice until the following month. The cost of their services has already been incurred, so an accounting entry is made (potentially based on an estimate) to represent the accrued expense.

Acquisition cost

Acquisition cost is an accounting term that describes the price of an asset plus all additional or incidental amounts that must be spent to acquire it, but not including any discounts. This amount is generally calculated before taxes, and it is used to determine the actual worth of an asset to a business or organisation. Additional items that go into the acquisition cost could include transportation, site preparation, installation costs, and testing (in the case equipment); surveying, legal assistance, real estate commissions, or paying off liens (for property); or fees or commissions in the case of intangibles like securities.

Algorithmic trading (Algo trading)

Short for algorithmic trading, algo trading means using a computer program to buy and sell securities based on a specific set of criteria or instructions (an algorithm). These criteria include specific market factors such as timing, volume, and price. The aim of algo trading is to allow trades to be made at speeds and profitability levels that unaided humans could not possibly achieve.

Algo trading has arisen as electronic transactions have replaced the exchange of paper stock certificates. Automated trading, a term sometimes used interchangeably with algo trading, is actually a subset of algo trading in which there is no human intervention in the trade at all. High-frequency trading, in turn, is a type of automated trading in which an algorithm is used to handle a very high volume of trades in a limited period of time.

Alphabet stock

The term alphabet stock refers to a specific category of stock, or shares, often for a company subsidiary. For instance, if one company buys a business unit from another company, it may issue alphabet stock for the newly acquired company.

The phrase alphabet stock comes from the fact that the shares are denoted using a letter of the alphabet (e.g. “A share” or “B share”) to distinguish them from the company’s other common stock. Alphabet stocks often grant their holders different voting rights and or dividends than those of the common stock of the company.

American Stock Exchange (AMEX)

The American Stock Exchange (AMEX) was once the third largest securities trading market in the United States, channeling about 10% of the nation’s trading at its peak. Following its acquisition by NYSE Euronext in 2008, it was renamed the NYSE American, not to be confused with the world’s largest stock exchange, the NYSE, which is also headquartered in New York.

AMEX was known for launching innovative financial products and asset classes, such as the options market. Most of the trading on AMEX, and now on NYSE American, was in small-cap stocks, meaning stocks whose total value on the market is between about $300 million and $2 billion.

AMEX received its official name in 1953 and grew out of the New York Curb Exchange and its precursor, the New York Curb Market—an informal market where brokers would trade the stocks of emerging companies in the street or in coffee shops.

Amortized Loan

Amortized loans, also known as instalment loans, are characterized by a pre-established term for repayment (called the amortization period), which is made in equal instalments at set intervals over the life of the loan.

In all loans, debtors have to repay lenders the principal, which is the amount originally borrowed, and interest, which is the lender’s fee for loaning them money. At the beginning of an amortized loan, more of the instalment goes to paying interest, but the amount allocated to repaying the principal steadily rises over the term of the loan.

This is because the amount of interest due for each payment is calculated as the interest rate times the amount of the principal still owed, which steadily decreases over the life of the loan as the balance of the principal is gradually paid down.

Common amortized loans include mortgages, car payments, and student loans.

Amsterdam Stock Exchange

The Amsterdam Stock Exchange was the world’s oldest securities market. It was founded in 1602 along with the Dutch East India Company, and its early history is closely linked to the equity dealings of that joint stock company. In the year 2000, it merged with the Brussels Stock Exchange and Paris Stock Exchange to form Euronext, which is currently the world’s sixth-largest securities market by market capitalization. The Euronext Amsterdam continues to operate in Amsterdam.

Analysis of variance

Analysis of variance, often abbreviated as ANOVA, is a technique from the field of statistics used to compare the means of different samples or subsets within a larger group or dataset. It is used to separate random variables from systematic factors within a sample and explain variations within that sample. When applied to securities markets, this method can be used to determine which factors affect stock prices and to predict fluctuations.

Annual Report

An annual report summarizes what a company has done and how it performed over a one-year period. This publication usually has an image-heavy, high-gloss front section that narrates the company’s achievements and a back section with more detailed financial and operational information that follows generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and international financial reporting standards (IFRS). This type of report is mandatory in many jurisdictions and is a requirement for listing on most stock exchanges.

Annual reports provide key material for fundamental analysis, where investors focus on a securities’ intrinsic value by looking at a variety of economic factors. They contain useful information on a company’s liquidity, profits or losses, multi-year growth, and retained earnings, and many other aspects.

Annuity

An annuity is a series of payments of the same amount made at regular intervals. It can be limited to a certain time-period or be lifelong. It is a long-term investment made through investment-based insurance products and is generally offered by insurance companies. The insured party either pays a fixed premium to the company or a one-off lump sum. On the expiry of the agreed time limit, the company pays the insured party through recurring payments.

It is a type of insurance-based investment used to top-up pensions. The initial phase consists of capital accumulation as the insured party pays the company in insurance premiums. The capital is invested by the insurance company in order to make a return and secure capital. On the expiry date, the insured party receives the money back, which may possibly have been revalued depending on the investments’ performance, and receives recurring payments for a limited amount of time or for life.

Anti-money laundering

Anti-money laundering refers to the laws, rules, and mechanisms for preventing people or organisations from disguising illicitly acquired funds as legitimate. The illegal activities that generate these funds include theft, tax evasion, embezzlement, trade in illegal goods, or other criminal activities. The funds are then placed into the formal economy through legitimate front businesses.

Many of these procedures designed to combat these illicit practices apply to banks or other financial institutions, which are required to monitor any suspicious activity among their customers and report it to the relevant authorities. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are important organisations in the development and implementation of policies to combat money laundering.

Antitrust

Antitrust law is the set of rules and regulations designed to ensure robust competition in an economy by distributing power among businesses. It allows economies to grow and protects customers from predatory or unfair practices, which include mergers that lead to lacklustre competition, price fixing, or acts with the aim of achieving a monopoly.

The term “trust” in antitrust has historical origin that could be confusing. Trusts referred to groups of businesses that banded together to set market prices or achieve other unfair advantages.

Arbitrage

Arbitrage means buying a financial instrument on one market and simultaneously selling it at a higher price on another to take advantage of a price difference and make a very low risk profit. Arbitrage both profits from market inefficiencies and moves toward eliminating them, making prices in different markets converge. In today’s highly computerised trading environment, these inefficiencies are infrequent and are often snapped up very quickly. A person who orchestrates arbitrage deals is called an arbitrageur.

Asset

An asset is anything of monetary value owned or controlled by a company, government, other entity, or individual. Essentially, it is any resource that is expected to provide a future benefit and that can be converted into cash.

Assets can be broken down into two main categories: intangible and tangible. As their name suggests, intangible assets are not physical in nature, and include patents and copyrights. Tangible assets are physical and can be further categorised as fixed or current. Fixed assets are usually long-lasting and include equipment, buildings, and land. Current assets, like cash and inventories, are highly liquid and can be easily converted into cash.

Asset Allocation

Asset allocation is the practice of dividing the components of an investment portfolio between different asset categories.

Investors use this strategy to diversify their portfolio (thereby spreading out their risk) and to tailor it to their ends.

For example, a person might allocate more of their retirement portfolio to stocks when they are younger and can afford to take more risk. Then, as they approach retirement and begin focusing more on ensuring an income rather than growth, they might slowly shift their allocation to lower-risk instruments like bonds.

Asset management

Also known as investment management, asset management is the administration of money or investments on someone else’s behalf. Its fundamental goal is to assemble a portfolio that maximises returns for a client and grows their wealth at a level of risk suited to their financial health, preferences, and circumstance. Asset management is carried out by experts who research and analyse trends and corporations to make good investment decisions.

Asset Turnover Ratio

Asset turnover ratio is a metric that can tell an investor how efficiently a company uses its assets to generate revenue. The formula for asset turnover ratio is a company’s total sales divided by the average value of its assets over a given period (assets at the start plus assets at the end, divided by two).

Typical asset turnover ratios can vary widely from one industry to another, so the ratio is usually only helpful for intra-industry comparisons between companies. Likewise, one-off events like large asset purchases or divestments can significantly distort a company’s asset turnover ratio in a specific period, so it is important to look at the metric’s trend across several periods for a more complete picture of performance.

Assurance

Assurance is a financial product that provides a payout on the occurrence of an event that is certain to take place. This event is usually the death of the holder of the product. The term is virtually synonymous with whole of life cover or whole life insurance.

Assurance differs from insurance in that it is not limited to a specific term, like most insurance plans, and in that the remuneration is guaranteed rather than contingent on the timing of the triggering event. Insurance is focused on protecting against risks and restoring policyholders to their original financial position, while assurance might be better characterised as an investment because payment is certain. Due to this certainty, premiums for assurance are higher than those for insurance.

Austerity

Austerity is a policy measure taken by governments to reduce a deficit (when spending exceeds revenue) and control debt. Austerity measures can be implemented by cutting expenditure, raising taxes, or both. Many countries use austerity to avoid defaulting on their debts (meaning they cannot make their debt payments on time), since a default makes it much more expensive and difficult to borrow money and raise capital. Austerity is a controversial approach, especially as a response to a recession: critics assert that it can lead to unemployment and economic slowdown, which in turn diminishes tax revenue and ultimately makes it a self-defeating proposition.