The Home of Investment Banking

Boom and Bust: Investment Banking on Screen

Wolf 2 Mary Cybulski - © 2013 Paramount Pictures

In August 2020, Ofcom released a study saying that during the first lockdown in April, people in the UK spent 40% of their day watching TV and online video services. Now in the winter months, it’s even easier to be coaxed into streaming a film rather than braving the outdoors.

Consequently, the streaming service industry has boomed, and is becoming an ever-more saturated market. Big players include Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Hulu and more recent addition Disney+, which amassed over 50 million subscribers in its first five months.

Netflix saw their subscribers surpass 200 million at the end of last year, making it the most popular service. It’s unsurprising, then, that following the publication of their Fourth-Quarter 2020 results last week, their stock price saw a dramatic boost of 16.85%.

If you’re settling down in front of the TV and can’t think of what to watch, then IB Insider has some recommendations for those who can’t get enough of investment banking.

Industry, 2020

Amanda Searle / HBO

This 8-part drama follows graduates as they fight for a permanent position at the fictional banking institution ‘Pierpoint & Co.’. Although the series was written by two former bankers, Mickey Down and Konrad Kay, there’s not much banking involved.

It does touch on some of the hurdles young bankers may have to overcome, but competition, relationships, drugs and drama dominate the show.

Nonetheless, fans will be pleased to know that it was renewed for a second season last month.

The Big Short, 2015

Jaap Buitendijk / Paramount Pictures

Based on a true story, the film follows a handful of people who saw the 2007-2008 financial crisis coming and decided to bet against the American economy. Cynical? Yes. Gripping? Absolutely.

Despite being a big Hollywood production, the film doesn’t get carried away, explaining the financial jargon with informative asides. It also managed to nab four Oscar nominations and won the Academy Award for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay).

Inside Job, 2010

The financial crisis of the late 2000s is a common theme amongst banking films, and the Oscar-winning documentary Inside Job is no exception. The film focuses on the role the US government and financial services played during this time. Eye-opening and ‘as gripping as any thriller’, this is an unforgiving portrayal of the build-up to the financial crisis.

L’Outsider, 2016

Jean Marie Leroy / Distrib Films.

International cinema is not averse to adapting some of the most significant banking scandals for the big screen. L’Outsider (English title ‘Team Spirit’) is a tense and engaging depiction of the rise and fall of Jérôme Kerviel.

Initially employed at the Société Générale to work in the middle office, Kerviel works his way up the ladder, only to become ‘the perpetrator of the biggest trading fraud of all time’, resulting in losses of around €4.9 billion.

Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story, 2020

Last year’s Scam 1992 is a Hindi-language web-series that follows the rags-to-riches-to-ruin story of Harshad Mehta. Dramatic and captivating, the series addresses the 1992 Indian stock market scam that hugely disrupted the Bombay Stock Exchange.

In an interesting twist, the series’ narrator is not the titular character, but journalist Sucheta Dalal, who investigated the scam at the time and later co-wrote the book which provided the basis for this series.

Panorama – Can you trust the Billion Pound Investors? 2019

This episode of Panorama, a British investigative documentary series, looks at the story of Neil Woodford, a fund manager whose risky investments lost billions.

Panorama interviews large and small investors alike to discover the extent of their losses, and how the Financial Conduct Authority could have done more to protect their investments.

Becoming Warren Buffett, 2017

HBO and Kunhardt Films

Fortunately, not all banking films end in ruin. This documentary interviews Warren Buffett as he explains the road to becoming the fourth richest person in the world (Buffet is currently worth $87.9 billion).

The film highlights Buffett’s philanthropic endeavours, as he claims that 99 percent of what he makes goes to others. According to Forbes, so far Buffet has donated over $41 billion.

The Wolf of Wall Street, 2013

Mary Cybulski / Paramount Pictures

This is the biggest Hollywood blockbuster on our list, with a budget of $100 million.

Directed by Martin Scorsese, the Wolf of Wall Street is loud, dark and outrageous. It’s a familiar caricature of a banker gone rogue, involving parties, drugs, scandals, mountains of cash and shady deals in the background.

The rogue banker in question is Jordan Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who builds a brokerage house from the ground up, with some help from fraudulent schemes along the way.

Whether you’re looking for hard-hitting drama about real-life investment banking scandals, or for outlandish portrayals of the high life, then these films and series could be for you.

A disclaimer, though: if you’re just starting out in the industry, don’t expect them to reflect your day-to-day life as an investment banker.

More Articles