Let’s ‘Double-Click’ on the Latest Cringeworthy Corporate Buzzword - Kanebridge News
Share Button

Let’s ‘Double-Click’ on the Latest Cringeworthy Corporate Buzzword

You may want to examine or delve into the phrase, which has become pervasive in conference calls and grates on many; ‘It’s almost like a joke’

By TE-PING CHEN
Thu, Jul 11, 2024 7:00amGrey Clock 4 min

Ruben Roy isn’t a guy who tends to beat himself up, but he’s still chagrined about what he said on an earnings call last month.

A managing director at Stifel Financial , Roy dialled in to hear the chief executive of a healthcare company discuss its latest results. During the Q&A, Roy asked the speaker to elaborate on his remarks about investment opportunities.

“I wanted to double-click a bit on some of the commentary you had,” Roy said, instantly cringing.

One of the fastest-spreading corporate buzzwords in recent years, “double-click” is both polarising and pervasive. Particularly on Wall Street, the figure of speech is now being used as a shorthand for examining something more fully, akin to double-clicking to see a computer folder’s contents. Some, like Roy, find the idiom obnoxious or twee. Double-click defenders say the phrase encourages deeper thinking.

Either way, it’s become a verbal tic du jour. Executives and analysts dropped double-click 644 times in corporate conference calls and events during the first half of the year, according to VIQ Solutions, up from 139 times in the same period of 2020.

“It’s almost like a joke. People are like, oh here we go with double-click,” says Roy, who’d been trying to avoid using the term when he accidentally let it slip. Colleagues, he says, haven’t let him forget it.

Annie Mosbacher, a Los Angeles-based marketer, recalls snapping to attention last year when she heard an executive use the phrase during a strategy meeting. Afterward, she and colleagues discussed it: “It was like, oh my gosh, double-click? I guess this is a thing now?”

The new jargon makes her roll her eyes. “Can’t we just say ‘this is an area we need to focus on?’” she says. “We regurgitate this sort of lingo as though it means something, and usually it’s about trying to be impressive more than anything else.”

Not so, says Ruben Linder, who’s owned a small audio and video production business in San Antonio for 25 years. These days, with the rise of technology and a more hectic corporate life, Linder says people need reminders to stop and examine what matters—to double-click, if you will.

“The term is simple, but it’s really profound,” he says. He tries to carve out time to go to a cafe twice monthly with a notebook and engage in reflection.

“I’ll double-click on my business, double-click on my life,” he says. “I double-click on everything now.”

Double-click lingo has leapfrogged beyond corporate America. While CEOs including Walmart’s Douglas McMillon and Nvidia ’s Jensen Huang have deployed the term, so, too, have congressional representatives, influencers and authors such as parenting guru Dr. Becky Kennedy.

The phrase is “innovative,” says Beth DelGiacco, a vice president of corporate communications at biotech company Argenx , who praises its efficiency.

“It’s only a few syllables. Everyone knows what you mean when you say it,” says DelGiacco, who regularly trots it out with peers.

Tech-inflected buzzwords are especially apt to gain traction—think “network,” “bandwidth” or “take offline”—because they can sound smart or cutting-edge, says Doug Guilbeault, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business who has studied corporate jargon.

The inventor of the literal double-click, former Apple designer Bill Atkinson, isn’t convinced. Reached while boating on a recent weekday, Atkinson, now retired, says he’s never heard anyone use double-click as a metaphor and would steer clear of such usage himself, preferring more straightforward language.

He adds that since inventing the function in 1979, he’s come to regret it. He now thinks an extra “Shift” button on the mouse would have been more user-friendly.

“The double-click was a mistake,” says Atkinson, who left tech in 1995 to pursue nature photography. Personally, he double-clicks less frequently these days, given the rise of mouseless devices like tablets and smartphones.

“I double-tap, or I tap,” he says. “I long-press.”

Buzzwords tend to come and go, says HR consultant Nancy Settle-Murphy, noting that other tech-inspired jargon, such as “RTFM”—or read the f—ing manual—are less commonly used today than they once were.

“There are fewer manuals now,” says Settle-Murphy, who recently installed a video doorbell at her home and notes it didn’t come with any pictures or diagrams.

Corporate jargon can be alienating. At a conference, Settle-Murphy was thrown when an audience member asked the speaker to double-click on a point they’d made.

“I thought, ‘these are slides, there’s no link, how can they double-click?’” she says, admitting she later searched online to find the new meaning.

Double-click has a long pedigree in the sales world. Matt Sunshine, head of the Center for Sales Strategy, which trains salespeople, says when he sold ad spots for a local radio station in Dallas in the 1990s, peers commonly used the term.

“Sales leaders would say, ‘Hey, you need to make sure you double-click on that’ with your prospects,” Sunshine says, meaning delve more deeply into any issues customers might raise, as in “Tell me more.”

While he doesn’t know exactly when it first took off, he says the phrase neatly encapsulates a core principle in effective sales strategy, in which salespeople seek to identify and address customers’ needs and concerns, instead of defaulting to one-size-fits-all pitches.

Double-clicking can help identify new business prospects, says Scott Bond, vice president of consumer services at Canadian real-estate company Rennie, which recently opened a U.S. location in Seattle.

Not long ago, Bond was on a Zoom call with his boss and some new business contacts based in southern California. The group hit it off, and afterward, Bond found himself mulling possibilities.

“I looked at my boss and said, hold on, I think we’re being presented with an opportunity here,” he says. “Why don’t we dive in and learn a little more?” His boss agreed, and the company is now planning to open its second American location in the Palm Springs area.

“We double-clicked,” he says.



MOST POPULAR

What a quarter-million dollars gets you in the western capital.

Alexandre de Betak and his wife are focusing on their most personal project yet.

Related Stories
Money
BLACKSTONE’S PRIVATE-EQUITY RETURNS TRAIL THE S&P 500
By Andrew Bary 19/07/2024
Money
Burberry Stock Sinks. Is the Problem Its CEO or the Luxury Consumer?
By GEORGE GLOVER 16/07/2024
Money
After Pandemic Slowdown, Global Wealth Is Growing Once Again, Led by the U.S.
By GEOFF NUDELMAN 14/07/2024
By Andrew Bary
Fri, Jul 19, 2024 3 min

The S&P 500 index has been crushing private-equity returns in the past year, and Blackstone ’s second-quarter results illustrate that trend.

As part of its earnings release early Thursday Blackstone said its corporate private-equity returns in the year ending in June were 11.3%. That compares with a 24.5% total return for the S&P 500.

In the prior year ending in June 2023, the S&P 500 topped Blackstone with a 19.4% return against 9.7% for the firm’s corporate private-equity business, which has $145 billion of assets and remains one of its most important areas along with real estate.

Blackstone is the leading alternatives firm with over $1 trillion in assets under management and has the largest market value of any public investment firm at more than $160 billion.

Driven by Nvidia , Microsoft , Apple , Amazon and other big technology stocks, the S&P 500 has handily topped most asset classes in the past several years.

Another sign of more difficult times for private equity came earlier this week from Calpers, the $503 billion California pension fund, when it reported it s preliminary returns for its fiscal year ending in June . Calpers is one of the first major endowments or pension funds to report results for the June fiscal year. undefined The pension fund, a major player in private equity, said its private-equity investments gained 10.9% net of fees—although that figure is lagged one quarter. Calpers’ public-equity investments were up 17.5% in the year ended June—its strongest asset class. Private equity remains a favorite of many pension funds and leading university endowments like those of Harvard and Yale. Their view is that private equity can beat public-market returns over the long term.

But the private-equity business has gotten tougher in recent years due to keen competition for deals, higher interest rates and a less receptive IPO market, which has made exits tougher.

And private-equity portfolios of firms like Blackstone look nothing like the S&P 500, given their investments in small to midsize companies.

Blackstone, for instance, bought a majority stake in Emerson’s climate technologies business last year and more recently purchased Tropical Smoothie, a franchiser of fast-casual cafes. It also holds a stake in Bumble, the publicly traded online dating site, and it’s an investor in actress Reese Witherspoon’s media company, Hello Sunshine. Blackstone’s corporate private-equity business runs $145 billion and has 82 investments, according to the firm’s website.

Blackstone’s private-equity business has strong long-term returns including a gain of over 50% in the year ended in June 2021 when it handily topped the S&P 500 index.

But the S&P 500 index has become difficult to beat more recently and it’s dominated by some of the best companies in the world. It carries less risk than private equity, given the cash-rich balance sheets of its leading companies like Apple , Microsoft and Alphabet .

Private-equity firms, by contrast, often use considerable leverage to boost returns. Investors can get exposure to the S&P 500 through index funds that charge 0.1% or less in annual fees and with immediate liquidity.

A key risk with the S&P 500 is its vulnerability to a selloff in the leading tech firms that now make up over 40% of the index. The recent rotation into smaller companies illustrates that.

Blackstone shares gained 1.1% to $136.31 Thursday in the wake of its earnings news as investors focused on rising investment deployments and positive management comments on the firm’s outlook.

The firm’s nearly $40 billion of inflows and $34 billion of capital deployment during the second quarter marked “the highest level of investment activity in two years,” Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman said in a statement.

Citi analyst Christopher Allen wrote in a note to clients on Thursday that while Blackstone’s overall performance was mixed, the outlook appears to be improving given fund-raising and deployment trends.

Investors also were heartened by Blackstone President Jon Gray’s comments about a bottoming in commercial real estate and strong capital deployment in that area.

But ultimately, the game for Blackstone and its alternatives peers is about performance—particularly beating low-fee public investments like the S&P 500. That seems to be getting more difficult.