Word of the Week: venerable
1: deserving to be venerated – used as a title for an Anglican archdeacon or for a Roman Catholic who has been accorded the lowest of three degrees of recognition for sanctity 2: made sacred especially by religious or historical association 3 a: calling forth respect through age, character, and attainments (a venerable jazz musician); broadly: conveying an impression of aged goodness and benevolence (encouraged by the venerable doctor’s head-nodding) b: impressive by reason of age(under venerable pines)
I think it's likely that most people have meant the third definition for venerable when they're using it to describe financial institutions. On the other hand, maybe the nod to religion in the first and second definitions is more apropos. After all, I think there's a good argument that much of the financial mess we're in was caused by the misplaced reverence people have had for these institutions.