Wednesday, August 20, 2014

More information about the AIM program's new PE & Banking track

The following is based upon information that is also contained on the AIM web site and throughout this blog.

Q) What is the Private Equity & Banking Track?

Beginning with the Class of 2016, the AIM program is expanding and will include two tracks: Investments and Private Equity & Banking. The Investments track will continue to focus on asset management, while the Private Equity & Banking track concentrates on private or transactional finance.

The Private Equity & Banking track is dedicated to forging closer ties with the private equity and investment banking sector. Like the Investments track, it reinforces our commitment to linking theory with practice and by engaging alumni and leading industry experts.

Q) How does the curriculum differ between the Investments and Private Equity & Banking tracks?

The AIM program operates within the Department of Finance which means that students in the program must be declared as finance majors. In addition to fulfilling all of the courses required by the College of Business (i.e. FINA 3001: Introduction to Financial Management), an AIM student must complete the following:

AIM Program Requirements (Investments Track):
Students accepted in the AIM program must earn a BC or better in the following required courses:
ACCO 3001:   Intermediate Accounting
ACCO 4080:   Analysis of Corporate Financial Statements
FINA 3986:    Internship Work Period 
FINA 4001:    Advanced Financial Management
FINA 4011:    Investment Analysis
FINA 4065:    Fixed Income Securities        
FINA 4310:    Introduction to Applied Investment Management
FINA 4320:    Research and Financial Analysis
FINA 4330:    Valuation and Portfolio Management
FINA 4370:    Advanced Investment Management, Ethics and Society

One of the following:
ACCO 4020:   Advanced Accounting
ECON 4060:   Introduction to Econometrics
FINA 4060:    Introduction to Financial Derivatives
FINA 4081:    Investment Banking   
FINA 4082:    Alternative Investments         
FINA 4112:    Investment Management       

One of the following:
ACCO 4040:   International Accounting       
ECON 4044:   International Currency Markets         
FINA 4040:    International Finance 
AIM Program Requirements (Private Equity & Banking Track):
Students accepted in the AIM program must earn a BC or better in the following required courses:
ACCO 3001:   Intermediate Accounting
ACCO 4080:   Analysis of Corporate Financial Statements
FINA 3986:    Internship Work Period 
FINA 4001:    Advanced Financial Management
FINA 4310:    Introduction to Applied Investment Management
FINA 4011:    Investment Analysis
FINA 4340:    Private Equity, Society and Ethics
FINA 4350:    Applied Financial Modeling
FINA 4381:    Investment Banking

Two of the following:
ACCO 4020:   Advanced Accounting
ECON 4060:   Introduction to Econometrics
FINA 4060:    Introduction to Financial Derivatives
FINA 4065:    Fixed Income Securities
FINA 4080:    Entrepreneurial Finance         
FINA 4082:    Alternative Investments         
FINA 4112:    Investment Management       

One of the following:
ACCO 4040:   International Accounting       
ECON 4044:   International Currency Markets         
FINA 4040:    International Finance 

Q) What are some of the applied learning elements of the Private Equity & Banking track?

In addition to providing an academically rigorous set of private equity and investment banking courses (listed above), the Private Equity & Banking track also will add a strong element of applied learning including:

·         Summer internships within investment banks, private equity firms, and other financial service providers
·         Opportunities for students to learn from experienced professionals,
·         Incorporation of financial modeling and case studies into the curriculum
·         Interaction with Marquette’s growing finance alumni network who will continue to provide valuable assistance in preparing students for internships and entry level positions
·         Management of a micro-cap equity fund
·         Use of “in the trenches” guest speakers in the classroom to allow students to learn about real private equity and banking experiences,
·         Creation of a Private Equity & Banking Club which will provide opportunities for coaching and nurturing that are important in helping students accelerate their careers
·         Opportunities for students to assist in the monitoring and evaluation of the performance of private equity investments within various investment portfolios (i.e. university endowments, local and state public pension funds, family offices, etc.).

Q) When does a student accepted into the AIM program declare the track they wish to pursue?

During the enrollment process students will indicate whether they have a preference for the Investments or Private Equity & Banking track. Their response will not be a part of the decision process as to whether the student is accepted into the AIM program. The information is useful in determining future course offerings.

All students accepted into the AIM program will take a similar set of courses throughout their junior year. The curricular differences in the two tracks appear during the students’ senior year. Therefore, before a student chooses their courses for the fall semester of their senior year (usually during the month of March), they will be designated as either in the Investments or Private Equity & Banking track. The program director (Dr. David Krause) and co-director (Mark Zellmer) will advise the student as to the best track based on the student’s background and area of interest. Best efforts will be make to assign students to their desired track, while at the same time attempting to seek a working balance. Factors taken into consideration will be the students’ career interests, internship offers, and cumulative grade point.

The course catalog for the 2015-2016 academic year will contain the specifics on the AIM program application and the process of assigning students into one of the two tracks.

Q) How relevant is what I learn in AIM to the real investment and private equity world?

As the name implies, AIM is an applied program. The instructors who teach in the program have solid academic track records and have extensive real world experience. In short, they know both financial theory and business practice. One of the major benefits of the AIM program is that students are also able to learn in their internships and in the classroom from finance professionals that also help link theory to application.

Q) Can I double-major while being enrolled in the AIM program?

Yes.  Many students have successfully sought an additional major in addition to studying the AIM curriculum (and obtaining a finance major). You will need to discuss double-majoring with Dr. Krause and advisors in the other department you see a second major.

Q) How can I juggle working on my degree, interning at a finance firm, spending time with my friends, studying for the CFA exam, and still meet the obligations of the AIM program?

There is no denying that the AIM program requires a serious commitment. In addition to actual class time, you should expect to spend at least 15 hours a week researching investments and studying for the CFA exam (Investment track). This is intended to be a rigorous program and there may well be some activities you will need to postpone while pursuing your degree. On the other hand, you are not alone in the AIM program – you will be enrolled in many of the same classes as your program colleagues and will have an opportunity to travel through the AIM program as a cohort.  In addition, the comparatively short duration of the AIM program means the rewards for all the hard work involved are never too far from sight.

Q)  What types of job will AIM prepare me for?

It is clearly very difficult to predict the path that a person's career will take. However, the thread that unites students in the AIM program is their interest in investments, private equity and investment banking. Some students may be more interested in equity or fixed income investment research, while others will have a greater interest in the transactions side of the investment banking and private equity industry. Quite a few students have stated their their goal is to work for an investment firm, obtain their CFA charter, and then attend a top tier graduate school. Others are interested in working at a bulge bracket or middle market investment bank and someday becoming a partner in a private equity firm. Others are interested in working in hedge funds or working as a financial consultant. Starting positions in the finance industry are naturally dependent on previous work experience - and may range from an associate analyst position to a management trainee program to a mid-office credit analyst position (also see the see internships and careers section).

Q) How do I know if the AIM program is right for me?

That’s a decision you’ll have to arrive at independently. From our perspective we view the successful applicant to the AIM program as having a strong intellect, an active curiosity about the investment banking and asset management industry, a demonstrated record of academic achievement, a well-conceived plan for their future, and good communication and analytical skills. Candidates will have the opportunity to demonstrate these traits through their academic record, resume, letters of recommendation, personal application essay, and a program interview.

Q) Who is eligible for admission to the AIM program?

Students applying to the AIM program are finance majors; however, some are also majoring in other business areas, such as accounting and international business. What the students accepted into the AIM program share is a sincere desire to succeed in finance, graduate from Marquette, and obtain their CFA charter or MBA degree. All of the students display a willingness to work hard toward achieving that goal. Most students enter the AIM program with a proven academic record and a passion for a career in the industry. Students submit their applications during the fall semester of their junior year – and if accepted into AIM, take their first AIM course in the spring semester of their junior year. To learn more, please visit the application information area of the AIM web site.

Q) How do I access application materials or more information?

You can access application material on the AIM web site. For specific inquiries regarding the application process, please contact: Lee Hovorka at 414-288-8024 or

Q)  When can I apply for admission to the AIM program?

Students may apply to the AIM program during the first semester of their junior year. The AIM program is a three semester, junior-senior program. Students interested in the AIM program must submit their application to the AIM Director in September.

Q) What are the AIM program admission requirements?

Students interested in the AIM program will be required to submit a formal application to the Director of the AIM Program near the beginning of the fall semester of their junior year. Unlike other offerings in the College of Business Administration, the selection process will be competitive due to the limited capacity of the program. Applicants will be evaluated by the AIM Admissions Committee, which is composed of the Director of the program, investment company representatives, and members of the Finance faculty. The selection of students for the program will be made by the Committee based upon the following: 1) overall academic performance (3.00 GPA minimum); 2) performance in courses relevant to investment management (e.g. finance, accounting, economics, statistics) ; 3) an application essay that articulates why you want to be in the AIM program and why you should be selected; and 4) experience and career objectives as demonstrated in your resume, letters of recommendation and interview.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Marquette's new Private Equity & Banking track will be introduced to students on August 29th

Marquette University’s Applied Investment Management (AIM) program is expanding and will offer a second track in Private Equity & Banking. Since 2005 the AIM program has allowed a select group of finance majors to get hands-on academic and financial analysis experience, including an opportunity to actively manage domestic and international equity and fixed-income portfolios.

In addition to the original track (which is focused on publicly traded investments), the newly developed Private Equity and Banking track concentrates on private and transactional finance.

“Expanding AIM is a direct response to increased interest from employers and finance students, and builds off of the college’s expertise in applied business education,” Interim Dean Mark Eppli said.

Nearly 70 students last year competed for the 24 coveted AIM seats, and many students nationwide choose Marquette’s College of Business Administration specifically for the AIM program. Eppli added that firms worldwide are allocating more investments into the private equity space and that demand for entry level research analysts is growing. Areas to be covered within the curriculum include: early stage venture capital investing, middle market banking, distressed debt, emerging markets, leveraged buyouts, mergers and acquisitions, and mezzanine financing.

Dr. David Krause, adjunct associate professor of finance who has led AIM since its inception in 2005, is excited about the program’s growth. “More students will have the opportunity to receive AIM’s rigorous education and career preparation, benefit from new internship experiences, and achieve broader career opportunities,” he said. “Tapping Mark Zellmer to co-lead the new program track is a coup for the College.”

As part of the expansion, Mark Zellmer was named in July as the new co-director of Private Equity & Banking track. A Marquette undergraduate and MBA alumnus, Zellmer has been a popular adjunct instructor since the mid-1990’s. Chairman and majority shareholder of Northern Oak Wealth Management Inc., he has extensive expertise in financing and investing in privately held companies, and he will teach courses in the new track.
Zellmer will work closely with Krause on the program’s numerous applied learning components, including internships, career development, alumni mentorships, industry networking and student clubs.

“I’ve worked alongside Mark for nearly a decade, and he’s the perfect person to help support AIM’s growth,” Krause said. “He’s not only a seasoned industry veteran, but he’s also an excellent, highly regarded instructor.”

The AIM program was the first undergraduate business program selected as a Program Partner by the CFA Institute. The partnership designation means that Marquette University offers a degree program that covers at least 70 percent of the CFA Institute’s Program Candidate Body of Knowledge, the CFA Institute Ethical and Professional Standards, and other requirements. Since the first class graduated in 2006, over 45 AIM alumni have passed all three levels of the challenging CFA exam.

An open house will be held on Friday, August 29th at 2:00 in the AIM Room. The topics will include the new AIM track and the application process.

AIM Open House - Friday, August 29th - 2:00 - 3:00 AIM Room (Marquette College of Business Administration)

This message is directed toward any Marquette student interested in learning more about the AIM program - specifically the new AIM track (Private Equity & Banking). For more information, go to the AIM web site.

Here is the agenda for Friday's open house:

2:00 – 2:20 Presentation and discussion of the new AIM track (Private Equity & Banking)

2:20 – 2:40 Discussion of AIM application

2:40 – 2:50 Career Services presentation

2:50 – 3:00 Q & A

Please note that the first AIM equity presentations of the semester will follow the open house in the AIM Room.  
3:00 – 4:30 AIM Equity presentations

How Will Future Professionals Land a Job in Investment Management?

This is taken from a chapter in the book: INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT: A SCIENCE TO TEACH OR AN ART TO LEARN? By Frank J. Fabozzi, CFA; Sergio M. Focardi; Caroline Jonas. The chapter titled “How Will Future Professionals Land a Job in Investment Management?”begins on page 91 of the book.

Jobs in investment management are much sought after and hard to come by. Many candidates pursue the relatively few openings, so employers can be choosy. In addition, at least in the United States, the number of people directly employed in asset management firms at year-end 2012 (159,000) was still below the peak employed at year-end 2007 (168,000), according to the Investment Company Institute’s most recent fact book (2013). The authors of the aforementioned book asked human resources managers at asset management firms what they look for in terms of profiles when hiring recent graduates. They also asked them whether there is a best path to landing a job in their firms.

Is There an Ideal Candidate for a Job in Investment Management?

The easy answer to this question is “no.” The ideal candidate depends on the firm that is hiring and the position being filled, and it is time dependent. However, here is a short summary of the wanted traits for most jobs in investment management:

  • Analytical ability
  • Broad knowledge
  • Ability to communicate effectively
  • Ability to reason
  • Creative or out-of-the-box thinking
  • Strong interest in financial markets
  • Humility
  • Strong work ethic
Do you have these traits? If so, then you might have what it takes to work as an analyst or portfolio manager in the asset management industry. And did I mention it - possessing a CFA charter is essential for advancement within the industry!

For those of you familiar with the Ins and Outs of Wall Street offered by the AIM program at Marquette University, the items listed above should look quite similar to the advice from our alumni. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Anthony Pennington-Cross named new chair of the Finance Department at Marquette University

New department chairs for 2014-15 academic year announced

Several departments across campus have new chairs for the 2014-15 academic year:

Capt. Daniel Olson, professor of naval science, will chair the Department of Naval Science; 
Dr. Nancy Snow, professor of philosophy, will chair the Department of Philosophy; 
Dr. Brian Bennett, professor of physics, will chair the Department of Physics; 
Dr. Robert Masson, associate professor of theology, will chair the Department of Theology; Dr. Anthony Pennington-Cross, professor of finance, will chair the Department of Finance
Dr. John Pauly, professor of journalism and media studies, will chair the Department of Journalism and Media Studies; 
Dr. Scott D'Urso, associate professor of communication studies, will chair the Department of Communication Studies; 
Dr. April Harkins, associate professor of clinical laboratory science, will chair the Department of Clinical Laboratory Science; and 
Dr. Kim Halula, associate dean and clinical professor, will be the interim chair of the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology.

Is Mainstream Finance Theory Adrift? by Roger Mitchell

This is from a July 9, 2014 article by Roger Mitchell on the CFA blog/website. It is in response to an earlier article about the shortcomings of financial theory in predicting and explaining the financial crisis.

US President Harry Truman once joked that he wanted to find a one-armed economist who wouldn’t be able to hedge every opinion by saying “On the other hand. . . .” In the years following the 2007–09 financial crisis, countless policymakers and investors could well understand Truman’s frustration with equivocating experts. Definitive answers were rare. Fundamental precepts — from macroeconomics to monetary policy to Modern Portfolio Theory — were shaken or even shattered. At times, the loss of conviction and consensus appears to have culminated not in a revolution of understanding but rather in the destruction of any pretense of understanding.
By way of an example, one need look no further than the concept of a “bubble.” To most observers and market participants, the loud popping sound produced by Lehman’s collapse in 2008 and the gummy substance covering the face of the global financial system would seem to be sufficient evidence of a burst bubble. According to mainstream finance theory, however, bubbles are by definition impossible. The very idea of a bubble is nonsensical. In 2010, Eugene Fama, one of the primary architects of the efficient markets hypothesis (EMH), went so far as to say, “I don’t even know what a bubble means.

This state of affairs makes the global financial crisis different from any other crisis since the end of the Second World War. “One of the most interesting aspects of this particular crash is that finance theory, not simply the practices of the financial services industry, has been directly blamed for the crisis,” write the authors of a new CFA Institute Research Foundation monograph entitled Investment Management: A Science to Teach or an Art to Learn? As the title suggests, the authors —Frank J. Fabozzi, CFA; Sergio M. Focardi, and Caroline Jonas — set for themselves the task of figuring out where investment management is in the wake of the crisis. If they had undertaken the project as a kind of literature review or meta-study, the result might have been a helpful compendium of the latest thinking. Instead, they solicited input from a globally diverse group of “opinion contributors,” including notable academics, investment practitioners, and human resources managers at asset management firms. The result is an engaging and remarkably concise reassessment of investment theory and practice.

The analysis begins by examining the theoretical underpinnings of efficient markets, rational expectations, optimization, and general equilibrium theory. A decisive conclusion comes quickly: “The fact that the theory makes impossible demands on our knowledge is a crucial point that affects all mainstream general equilibrium theories,” the authors write. “Fundamental theoretical variables, such as prices, are defined as the discounted present value of an infinite stream of future quantities that are not observable.” From there, the discussion quickly turns to “finance theory as physics envy.”
Whatever finance theory may be, it is not analogous to the physical sciences. “Economics is not about studying the laws of nature; it is about studying the behavior of an ever-changing human artifact,” as the authors put it. Could it be a social science?  It seems to have elements of a social science but arguably belongs in a different category for reasons that are well explained in the monograph.
Although this discussion is interesting in its own terms, the heart of the publication lies in a section dealing with how the practice of investment management needs to change following the crisis. Here, the perspectives of the “opinion contributors” working in asset management help to shift the discussion away from purely theoretical arguments and put the focus on key practical considerations for asset managers. The authors’ take on the state of risk measurement, risk management, and systemic risk models probably will be of particular interest to current practitioners.
The final chapters consider the education of future investment professionals. Again, although the topic might sound like an academic exercise, observations from human resources managers, which are woven into the discussion, have compelling implications for people in early or mid-career. The chapter “How Will Future Professionals Land a Job in Investment Management?” might accurately be re-titled “How Will Current Professionals Further Their Careers in Investment Management?”
The question of “art” versus “science” deserves further mention. In considering whether finance theory can be viewed as a “science,” the authors touch on the history of science in the early modern period. Inevitably, Galileo comes up because he famously asserted that the language of nature is mathematics. Where finance and economics are concerned, the monograph authors make the important observation that “forcing mathematization can actually impoverish, not enrich, knowledge.” Many of the practitioners quoted in the book also express the concern that finance has become too “mathematized.” Those who have read Peter Bernstein’s Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk may be reminded of his warning that numbers can become fetishes. But as the authors point out, “to deny that some parts of economic theories can be mathematically described . . . would be unscientific.”

In some ways, the example of Galileo can be instructive for the current state of investment management. The legendary scientist is widely perceived as being vindicated by history, but it’s worth keeping in mind that Galileo was actually wrong on critical points of science. For example, he insisted on an elaborate but incorrect explanation of the tides and ridiculed Johannes Kepler’s hypothesis that the tides were influenced by the moon. Galileo believed that he had proved the theory that the earth orbits the sun, but that claim could not be proved empirically until much later. As the monograph authors correctly note, “with the mathematics known to Galileo, one could not have formulated modern physics.”
Galileo’s most significant contribution to science was not in discovering new facts but in pioneering the way for future discoveries. He was a great proponent of applied mathematics and what has come to be called the scientific method. There are striking parallels between the rise of science in the early modern period and the development of an intellectual framework for thinking critically about finance. As a formal discipline or body of knowledge, modern investment theory is less than a century old. More than a century after the death of Galileo, it was possible to calculate the orbits of planets yet impossible to plot the longitude of a ship at sea. Many a lost or shipwrecked sailor in the 18th century might have expressed a colorful opinion about the practical utility of scientific theories.
The lack of a complete scientific model of navigation didn’t prevent a robust maritime industry from evolving. Equipped with tools no more advanced than an astrolabe, a sextant, or a compass, seafaring people were able to navigate well enough to enable the development of trans-oceanic civilizations. Busy trade routes and commercial networks extended around the globe. And all this activity was based on artisanal technology — the work of smithies, carpenters, shipwrights, and many more — that was literally more art than science. With this historical model in mind, consider the monograph authors’ definition of economics and finance as studying the behavior of an ever-changing artifact.

If the deficiencies of rational frameworks and equilibrium models leave us feeling lost on a vast ocean of financial uncertainty, it doesn’t mean that no further progress is possible. Future investors may be able to look back on our age as a difficult middle passage in the voyage to discover a working science of finance. In the meantime, as the authors of this Research Foundation monograph make abundantly clear, asset management firms have a renewed interest in hiring people who can apply critical reasoning, intuitive judgment, and qualitative “big picture” analysis in the investment decision-making process.

Perhaps we can think of this skill set as the investing equivalent of what sailors historically called “dead reckoning.” The paper can be found at: CFA Research Monograph.

Are You A Forgettable Job Candidate? Here's How To Fix That by Liz Ryan

This article is from a recent Forbes posting.It has some interesting tips that you should consider when you are interviewing for an internship or entry level position.

We were interviewing fifteen or twenty candidates a day at U.S. Robotics during the years of crazy growth. I got good at remembering people through tiny cues — George Smith is the guy who worked on the space shuttle, and Alison Banks is the lady who started her career working in banks and who’s now a tech project manager. I scribbled notes in the margin of each resume so I’d keep each candidate firmly in mind, but let me tell you, it’s not easy.

Someone would make a suggestion like “Why don’t we take a picture of each applicant and staple the picture to the resume, so that when we sit down on Friday to talk about the candidates, we know who’s who?” and then immediately someone else would say “That’s practically illegal! Race and gender and ethnicity can’t be part of the hiring decision!”

Well guess what, Bucko: we already met each of these people. If race, gender or ethnicity were going to be relevant to any manager’s decision, those attributes have already been made plain!

We all need to get a lot more human and less dweeby about human topics at work, starting with the way people get hired. It would have been a great thing for those job candidates back in nineties if indeed we had been able to keep a photo or some way to bring each person back to mind right in front of us. But we didn’t, and we saw a lot of people.

It turns out that you can have a brilliant job interview and still be forgotten by the time your hiring manager sits down to make the hiring decision. How can that be?’ you ask. Here’s how. People are human, and that means they’re fallible.

Let’s imagine that you and your should-be-next-boss are wrapping up a tremendous interview conversation around eleven o’clock in the morning. Your manager, Todd, walks you to the revolving door at the front of the facility and off you go, whistling your way back to the job you hate and can’t wait to get out of.

“Todd is a chiller,” you say to yourself. “I think this could be a fantastic job for me.” Todd turns away from the revolving door as he heads back to his office, but his boss, Natalie, is walking out of the ladies room at that very moment and spots him.
“Todd,” she says, “You’re just the person I wanted to see!” Natalie talks to Todd in the hallway for five minutes about a project plan. After that, Todd’s assistant Gretchen grabs him and pulls him into a boring-ass design review where Todd’s brain leaves the room and focuses on his to-do list so that Todd doesn’t fall asleep.

Somebody is on the ball enough to order lunch for the people in the design review meeting, but they order sub sandwiches and after eating one of them Todd is about to fall asleep.

After the design review, Todd finally gets back to his office and who’s there but another job candidate. By the time Todd makes it home to his wife Brenda and their children Mitch (six years old), Clara (four) and Brett (eight months) how much of Todd’s recollection of your wonderful meeting this morning is still intact?
That’s a big problem for you as a job-seeker. Hiring managers simply forget.

It happened to us. I got a call around three in the afternoon from a hiring manager who said “I’m ready to make an offer.”

“Great news!” I said. “I thought the candidate roster for your opening was spectacular.”
“Which candidates did you especially like?” the manager asked me.

“Stephen Douglas was my top candidate,” I said, “followed by Nat Jones, not a close second but I think Nat could do the job. It’s just that Stephen had the right experience, the right attitude toward the opportunity and tremendous communication skills. He’d be a huge asset.”

“I feel the same way but reversing the two names,” said the manager. “I want to make Nat Jones an offer, and if he doesn’t accept it, we’ll make the offer to Stephen Douglas.”

“Sounds great,” I said. I wrote the offer letter.

I called Nat on the phone. He was beyond excited. He wasn’t working, and he wanted to start the new job right away. I invited him to orientation the very next Monday morning.

I called Stephen Douglas and explained that while we agreed he was a tremendous candidate, this wasn’t exactly the right job. We were hiring like crazy, so I could say “Stephen, if you’re game, I’d love to introduce you to some other managers. We have five or six opportunities that could be a great fit for you.”
Stephen had been my top candidate anyway. I had a personal interest in getting him into the company and keeping him excited about us even though my message began with a “no thanks” decision. He was very gracious about it.

“I’m a bit surprised, but I know that these things are never straight-line decisions,” said Stephen. I asked him which of our open positions he might be interested in, and there were two. “I’m going to talk with both of those managers today,” I said. “I’ll try to get back to you this afternoon.”
It so happened that one of the hiring managers wanted to see Stephen on Monday morning, so I called Stephen back and we set up that appointment.

Monday morning came and I was in theatrical mode at the orientation session, welcoming the newcomers and answering their questions. We had a tradition that hiring managers would stop in and say hi to the group — their own incoming newbies and the others going to different departments — and the manager who had hired Nat Jones was one of the folks who visited us that day.

He did a great job not showing the shock on his face when he looked around the room at the class of ten or twelve newcomers and didn’t see the face he was looking for. At the first break, the manager yanked me out of the room into the hallway.

“Oh my God,” he said, “Now I see. Nat Jones, in the orientation room, was not the guy I wanted to hire. I wanted to hire the other guy, Stephen Douglas.”

“As it turns out, Stephen is here in the building,” I said. “He’s interviewing right now with Allan in System Engineering.”
“DAMN!” said the manager.

He’d had his perfect candidate sitting right in front of him, and a simple brain slip got him to let that candidate slip through his fingers. There was nothing to be done. We couldn’t rescind the offer to Nat Jones, a qualified candidate, on the basis that all of us had too many windows open on our mental desktops. “Don’t stress,” I said. “Nat is going to do a great job for you. Everything happens for a reason.”

The manager learned a tough lesson that day, and so did I. You can’t be too careful when dealing with groups of people and making decisions fast and on the fly. Stephen Douglas ended up accepting the second position he had interviewed for. Our company’s policy required newcomers to stay in their first job for one year before transferring to a new position, so the original manager who’d spotted Stephen Douglas couldn’t snag Stephen even though he desperately wanted to.

As a job candidate, you must stay top of mind for your hiring manager and take nothing for granted in the human-memory department. You can actually say your name at the end of the interview. Say “Jack, it’s been great to meet you, and just as a reminder, I’m Stephen Douglas and I’ll be very much looking forward to our next conversation.”

Send an email thank-you as soon as you get home, and if there’s a switched-on HR person in the mix copy the same email thank-you to him or her.

Send another handwritten notecard reminding the hiring manager of the topics you and s/he spoke about. Your biggest problem on the job search trail may not be the disgusting Black Hole recruiting system or corporate apathy. It may be that an overbooked, overstressed human being simply hit his or her mental wall and forgot you.

On the other end of the spectrum, at the entry level, my seventeen-year-old son applied for a job at a national retail store. It was a regular cashier/stock-type job. He felt great about the interview, but he never heard back. My husband and I encouraged him to check with the store, but he was too proud or embarrassed.

“If they don’t want me, to hell with them,” he said. Six months later after much prodding we finally got him to make another inquiry at the same store.

The store manager called him the same day. “I lost your application,” she said. “We wanted to hire you six months ago! We kept hoping you’d call us back.”

Without the paper application the manager had no way to contact my son. The same thing could happen to you in a white-collar job situation. Call a hiring manager back if you don’t hear anything. Don’t assume they’ve passed you over. If they have made a “no thanks” decision, let them tell you straight up.

It’s a new day, and the human element in business is coming to the fore — and not a moment too soon!

Top 20 Films about Finance: From Crisis to Con Men By Usman Hayat

This is from a 2013 blog entry by Usman Hayat on the CFA website. It offers some interesting reviews of finance-related movies and documentaries. This list was compiled before The Wolf of Wall Street was released - which is be one of the best finance films to date.. 
Its a Wonderful Life
Over the past few months, I have watched countless films about finance, from movies to documentaries to television programs. My aim: to identify the top 20 films on the basis of both their entertainment value and their educational value. Putting this list together has been a sobering exercise that has led me to an unfortunate yet inescapable truth: If the silver screen is any guide, financial professionals, particularly those working on Wall Street, have had a serious public relations problem since long before the global financial crisis of 2008. Only a single film that made my list, It’s a Wonderful Life, depicts a finance professional in a positive light — and that film was released in 1946.
Some might argue that Hollywood has had a hand in creating this negative image, given that media, especially films, “are key arbiters of public opinion, determining which activities, organizations, and people are valued and which are distrusted,” as the Harvard Business Review has pointed out. The extent to which the film industry helps create or merely reflects the public’s mistrust of finance professionals is debatable. These days, of course, that mistrust is palpable: According to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, only half of respondents said they trusted banks and financial services firms “to do what is right.” Meanwhile, in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll released earlier this week, 62% of respondents said that U.S. banks and financial institutions have fallen short in protecting against another global financial crisis. And our own CFA Institute & Edelman Investor Trust Study, published last month, found that just a slim and fragile majority of the 2,100 retail and institutional investors surveyed said they trust investment managers.
What has also struck me about depictions of finance in the movies is how very few films, particularly among the documentaries, suggest how to fix the industry and the financial system — something that CFA Institute is deeply committed to. Nonetheless, the films that make up my top 20 list are enjoyable to watch and often quite informative, offering an insider’s perspective on everything from options and futures trading to leveraged buyouts to the slow-motion collapse of a global investment bank.
If I missed one of your favorite finance films, leave me a comment — and let me know what lesson(s) you took away from it. I hope that viewing even just a few of these films can help inform the public conversation and debate that is so sorely needed about both the lessons of history and the future of our industry.
Here’s my list of the 20 most interesting movies, documentaries, and television programs about finance — divided into four categories:
Caution: Some of these films and programs contain adult language, nudity, and violence. Viewer discretion is advised.

The Finance Professional as Hero
Nothing speaks more plainly to the public’s perception of the finance industry than the fact that only one film on this list depicts a finance professional in a positive light. It should be noted, though, that while the hero of this classic film runs a community savings and loan, his arch-nemesis is a banker.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946; drama; 130 minutes; community banking)
A classic. Released in 1946, the year after World War II formally ended, it is both the oldest and the only black-and-white film on my list. James Stewart plays George Bailey, an all-around honest and lovable guy who manages a community finance operation, the Bailey Building & Loan Association. While in a heated argument with his powerful business rival Henry F. Potter, Bailey explains the ideas that shape his world view and his business ethics: “You’re right when you say my father was no businessman. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante building and loan, I’ll never know. But neither you nor anyone else can say anything against his character, because his whole life . . . he never once thought of himself. . . . People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well, in my book, my father died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!” Despite Bailey’s selflessness and honesty, Bailey Building & Loan has its share of crises — including a bank run — and Bailey is accused of financial fraud. With his financial institution in ruins and his heart broken, Bailey attempts suicide, and some powerful forces are stirred into action. Interestingly, the popularity of this movie prompted prominent economist Laurence Kotlikoff to name his 2010 book Jimmy Stewart Is Dead. Kotlikoff, arguing for the implementation of limited-purpose banking, writes, “Both the good-guy and the bad-guy bankers are working in a regulatory system designed in the 1930s for Bailey Savings & Loan, not for today’s world of global finance, exotic financial securities, computerized electronic trading, and enormous trade volume that George Bailey could not begin to fathom.”

The Finance Professional as a Gambling Man
“So, in today’s parlance [on Wall Street], gambling is actually innovation, and clients are actually idiots,” Jon Stewart said in a 2010 episode of the American TV news satire The Daily Show. As much as it may sting when those in the entertainment field compare finance professionals to bookies (see the Trading Places clip below), it’s surprising (and unfortunate) how readily some finance professionals draw the same comparison.
Trading Places (1983; comedy; 116 minutes; commodity futures trading)
Two brothers who run a commodity futures brokerage make a bet to settle their argument over whether heredity or environment is responsible for a person’s character. The brothers arrange for a “scientific experiment” in which they switch the circumstances of a street hustler and their elitist executive. The executive falls apart in his life on the street, while the hustler thrives as a commodities broker. Eventually, the hustler and the executive, who were at the receiving end of the brothers’ bet, decide to exact revenge on them through their bread and butter — futures trading. The brothers, as well as the hustler and the executive, bet on orange juice futures contracts, anticipating the findings of an impending government report about the orange crop. As the brothers go long, the hustler and the executive go short. Here is how the executive explains his trading philosophy to the hustler: “Think big, think positive, never show any sign of weakness. Always go for the throat. Buy low, sell high. Fear? That’s the other guy’s problem.” (If you struggle to understand the frenzied futures trading at the end, the Planet Money team got a commodities trader to dissect the film’s finale in a recent podcast, “What Actually Happens at the End of ‘Trading Places’?“) The film has also prompted the addition of what is known as the “Eddie Murphy Rule” to the Wall Street Transparency and Accountability Act — that is, a ban on insider trading using nonpublic information misappropriated from a government source.

Billion Dollar Day (1986; documentary; 30 minutes; forex trading)
This BBC documentary is about a day in the life of three foreign exchange traders based in New York, London, and Hong Kong. On the one hand, the filmmakers seem to be in awe of the high life and relatively young age of the traders. On the other hand, they do not hide that they largely view these traders as gamblers. The documentary shows the traders in action, going long and short, quickly taking and closing large positions to cash in on narrow price movements. These traders are not working from any economic analysis but, rather, mostly their hunches about what other traders are doing. Together, the three dealers trade currencies worth US$1 billion and make a profit of more than £100,000. Watching this documentary, made less than 30 years ago, you realize how much the physical world and financial markets’ infrastructure have moved on since then — but the underlying issue of the social usefulness of finance remains the same. As the documentary concludes: “By dealing so much with each other, they add to the speculative froth on what has become a very wild business. It’s the price the world pays for a free market in money.”

Trillion Dollar Bet (2000; documentary; 48 minutes; option pricing)
This documentary tells the story of the Black-Scholes-Merton options pricing formula,physics envy in finance, and the collapse of hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM). It includes interviews with Robert Merton and Myron Scholes, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1997. (The Nobel Prize could not be given to Fischer Black, who died in 1995.) The effect of the formula on financial markets was far reaching. In the words of the narrator of the documentary, “Capitalism was on the march. The combination of mathematics and money, it seemed, was unstoppable.” The hedge fund LTCM was founded by a bond trader at Salomon, and Merton and Scholes signed on as partners. When LTCM fell, it had losses so large that it became a systemic threat and had to be bailed out, bringing financial losses and lingering embarrassment to its owners. Its fall raised a difficult question: If even Nobel laureates can’t understand the risks in financial markets, who can? The closing line of the documentary: “There is a tempting and fatal fascination with mathematics. Albert Einstein warned against it. . . . Don’t believe in something because it is a beautiful formula.”

Floored (2009; documentary; 78 minutes; floor trading)
Hear it from the Chicago traders themselves — who tell it like it is, with lots of swearing and cigars. This documentary is also a chapter in financial history; it’s about a profession that technology has made largely obsolete — floor trading. It shows how the brutally competitive and in-person floor trading at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange worked. There are a number of surprising quirks to the culture. Floor traders had their cliques, based on which part of the city they lived in or their ethnicity or even their religion. Many traders earned a living by trading on their own account. As one of them says, “I am the hedge fund manager of my own family’s worth.” Others are more frank about what they do. As one puts it, “Whether people like to admit it or not, this is a form of gambling.” The film explains the switch from open-outcry floor trading to electronic trading and its effect on the lives of the floor traders in Chicago. Today’s impersonal and anonymous electronic trading in most financial markets is the opposite of the royal-rumble-style pit trading, and some of those who had great success in the pit struggle with electronic trading. While the film is about floor trading in Chicago, some of its lessons can be safely generalized to markets around the world that underwent the same change.

Wall Street Warriors (2006–; documentary series; 30 minutes each; entrepreneurship)
This documentary series covers the lives of real and ambitious people who are trying to succeed on Wall Street. It features the analyst, the day trader, the options broker, the stockbroker, the fund manager, the dealmaker, and more. Men and women of different ethnicities and from different countries of origin — they are all on Wall Street to compete and to win. As the title suggests, their work is not just a job. It is so competitive — and the financial and emotional stakes so high — that they feel as if they are fighting a war. These Wall Street warriors have one thing in common: They are all pursuing lots of money and taking on lots of stress.

Rogues, Con Men, and the “Greed Is Good” Set
The bulk of Hollywood dramas depict finance professionals as unscrupulous and money hungry. While some of these films are pure invention, there are a couple of documentaries in this group as well as a couple of films based on real-life scandals.
Wall Street (1987; drama; 126 minutes; insider trading)
This is the CAPM of finance films: Everyone in finance is supposed to know it, and whether it is any good is no longer the point. The film is about making fast money, and a lot of it, through insider trading. In its depth and intensity, this film towers above the finance films that came soon before or after, like Quicksilver (1986; 99 minutes; options trading) and Working Girl (1988; 115 minutes; mergers and acquisitions). It is hard to find a list of top finance films that does not have this one at or near the top — and the iconic status of the villain, Gordon Gekko, raises troubling questions about the finance industry. These brief lines are strongly associated with the film: “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.” A clip from that very speech was recently used by the FBI in an insider-trading public service announcement that features Michael Douglas, who played Gekko.

Other People’s Money (1991; comedy; 103 minutes; corporate takeover)
This comedy depicts a clash between the so-called real economy and the financial markets as a corporate raider with his free market ethos takes on a family business with traditional values. A manufacturing unit is facing obsolescence, and the question is whether the unit and the jobs it has created will be liquidated to satisfy the shareholders or whether there is some way to return it to profitability. The film has a number of finance lessons to offer, particularly in company valuation. The raison d’ĂȘtre of the principal character, Lawrence “Larry the Liquidator” Garfield, is similar to that of Gordon Gekko in Wall Street: “Whoever has the most when he dies, wins.” Garfield also delivers his own speech justifying the single-minded pursuit of money: “I don’t make anything. I’m making you money. And lest we forget, that’s the only reason any of you became stockholders in the first place. You wanna make money! You don’t care if they manufacture wire and cable, fried chicken, or grow tangerines.”

Barbarians at the Gate (1993; comedy; 107 minutes; leveraged buyout)
This is both a docudrama and a comedy. It is based on a book about the well-known and then-biggest leveraged buyout of food giant RJR Nabisco. It is a story of greed, egos, lust for luxury, high stakes, and treachery. The film offers an insider’s perspective on the brutal competition that surrounds a leveraged buyout (LBO). After the expensive failure of a smokeless cigarette, the CEO of RJR Nabisco draws up plans to buy the company outright. But an influential LBO guru, who initially gave the CEO the idea for the LBO, is unhappy that the CEO is using his idea without involving him, and they end up in a bidding war. As the LBO guru puts it, “It’s not the company. It’s the credibility. My credibility. I can’t just sit on the bench and let other people play the game. Not my game. Not with their rules.” Among other things, the movie also shows that a CEO may have little to do with the success of his company — and much to do with its failings. The movie features many humorous but telling lines, such as: “You know the three rules of Wall Street? Never play by the rules, never tell the truth, and never pay in cash.”

Rogue Trader (1999; drama; 101 minutes; equity futures trading)
When this film came out, in 1999, it was quite clear whom it was about — Nick Leeson, who brought down Britain’s oldest investment bank, Barings. Since then, alas, more such traders have followed in Leeson’s footsteps. The film is based on Leeson’s own book,Rogue Trader: How I Brought Down Barings Bank and Shook the Financial World. Once the star trader of Barings, he lost more than a billion dollars through unauthorized futures trading on the Singapore exchange. The film shows that his superiors had deluded themselves into believing that Leeson was earning large profits by putting their meaningless management-speak into action. That he was not subjected to the usual checks and balances between the front office and the back office helped Leeson hide what he was doing. The culture at Barings was also part of the problem: While greed was not officially good at Barings, being good was not good enough. Employees like Leeson had to keep swinging for the fences. Early in the film, explaining to his new team what futures trading is, Leeson says, “The truth of the matter is that we are not buying or selling anything real. It’s just numbers.” A bit later in the film, he says, “That’s all the market is, one giant casino.”

Boiler Room (2000; drama; 120 minutes; securities fraud)
This film depicts finance at its absolute worst: A group of lying, cheating, stealing young stockbrokers sell worthless stocks to people they can fool using high-pressure sales calls. “You will make your first million in three years” is the promise made by J.T. Marlin to its batch of young recruits. If Wall Street explains insider trading, this one explains the pump and dump. Money is everything for these guys, and they make their money by closing sales. As one of them puts it: “And there is no such thing as a no-sale call. A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock, or he sells you on a reason he can’t. Either way, a sale is made. The only question is, Who’s gonna close? You or him?!” The film is also the story of a son who finds it hard to live up to his father’s standards. He joins the dodgy brokers and discovers his inner salesman. Interestingly, these stockbrokers act as if they are not practicing fraud but, rather, are performing the art of sales at the highest level.

The Corporation (2003; documentary; 145 minutes; legal person)
The most destructive sociopath of modern times, according to this hard-hitting documentary, is the corporation itself. The opening line says it well: “One hundred and fifty years ago, the business corporation was a relatively insignificant institution. Today, it is all pervasive.” The Corporation is not strictly a finance film, but it deals with the concept of limited liability and externalities. Featuring a number of interviews with prominent thinkers, the documentary digs deep into the ideas underlying corporations, contrasting the natural person (human) with the legal person (the corporation) and exploring why some large, profit-hungry companies seem to have little regard for society and the environment. When I interviewed Bob Monks, a corporate governance pioneer, about his top learning resources on corporate governance, he named this film as “an all-time favorite.” Monks is interviewed in the film. His best line? “A corporation is an externalizing machine in the same way that a shark is a killing machine.” If you are interested in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues in finance, this film is one to watch.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005; documentary; 110 minutes; accounting fraud)
The sudden collapse of Enron in 2001, then one of the largest companies in the United States, is one of the best-known corporate governance disasters. This documentary, based on the book The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron, analyzes that collapse and shows the underlying greed and arrogance of the company’s executives. It is the story of Enron turning real losses into fictional profits through accounting fraud. How Enron was making its money was a mystery that no one seemed to question. The documentary features a number of interviews, including those with former Enron executives and employees as well as financial analysts. “Enron is a company that deals with everyone with absolute integrity” was the official line as Enron went about business in quite a different way, such as mercilessly exploiting energy deregulation in California. As the film explains, Enron easily fooled everyone, including the financial analysts on Wall Street. The company ran an effective “campaign to capture the hearts and minds of stock analysts,” and its stock price soared. But accounting fraud can’t last forever, and eventually the excesses of Enron’s executives caught up with them.

Margin Call (2011; drama; 107 minutes; financial recklessness)
This is a relatively slow-paced story of an intense 24 hours in the life of a financial institution that is in deep trouble. The bank has large and leveraged speculative positions that are facing so much volatility that the losses could be greater than its market value. (Despite what the title of the film may suggest, there is in fact no margin call issued to or by the institution.) The risks are complex, and only one risk analyst (with a doctorate in rocket science) can really understand them. Reckless speculation, however, is not the institution’s only defining characteristic. Ruthlessness to its own employees is another. As it fires employees, its message to those remaining is, “Before this is all done, three of every ten guys who were standing between you and your boss’s job are now gone. That is your opportunity.” One of the lead actors who delivers this message to the remaining employees seems to have taken Gordon Gekko’s advice — if you need a friend, get a dog. Indeed, as he goes about firing people around him, he is worried about his sick dog, the only thing in the world to which he seems to have any emotional connection. The top boss at the bank shares a similar disdain for other human beings. When he is reminded that what the institution is considering selling to others is worthless, he makes his position clear: “We are selling to willing buyers at the current fair market price. So that we may survive.”

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2011; drama; 133 minutes; moral hazard)
Gordon Gekko is back, but this time in a feel-good film. After serving jail time for what happened in the prequel, Wall Street, the former insider is now an outsider. But he has not come back without some quotable quotes: “Someone reminded me I once said greed is good. Now it seems it is legal. Because everybody is drinking the same Kool-Aid.” UnlikeWall Street, this is a relatively complicated story, and the film devotes a good deal of time to the emotional drama of Gekko’s strained relationship with his daughter, her up-and-down relationship with her partner (played by Shia LaBeouf), and his relationship with his mother, whom he must repeatedly bail out from financial troubles. The film takes place within the context of the financial crisis, in which a young financier, Gekko’s daughter’s partner, a specialist in alternative energy, is trying to live a different kind of life on Wall Street — making money while doing good and avoiding the moral hazard of bailouts. Rather than blatantly violate the law as Gekko did in Wall Street, the young financier in this film prefers to work around it. Luck and design pit him against the same billionaire who is the enemy of Gekko. What is driving these people? Is it money, is it love, or is it simply madness? Gekko says, “It’s not about the money. It’s about the game, the game between people.”

Fallout from the Financial Crisis
Media depictions of the finance industry weren’t too flattering to begin with, but the financial crisis of 2008 sparked a flurry of harsh documentaries and docudramas that examined the crisis’s underpinnings, including ethical lapses.
The Ascent of Money (2008; documentary; 120 minutes; financial history)
In this documentary, based on a book with the same title, Niall Ferguson, author and academic, traces the evolution of money, bond markets, insurance, and the subprime mortgage debacle. A key lesson from this documentary is the same as that from history in general: This time is not so different; it has happened before — and more than once. We need only read history to find out. Ferguson’s thesis is that the history of money can help explain all human history. “There was one huge possibility created by the emergence of money as a system of mutual trust — a possibility that would revolutionize world history. It was the idea that you could rely on people to borrow money from you and pay it back at some future date.” That’s why, explains Ferguson, the root of credit is credo, Latin for “I believe.” This fast-paced documentary was filmed in a variety of locations, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy, Russia, and Chile. The two-hour version of this documentary comprises six episodes, starting with the origin of credit and ending with globalization. This is how Ferguson puts it: “Because we take it for granted, we tend to underestimate the extent to which our entire civilization is based on the borrowing and lending of money. No, it doesn’t literally make the world go round. But it does make vast quantities of people, goods, and services go round the world from Babylon to Bolivia.”

Capitalism: A Love Story (2009; documentary; 127 minutes; capitalism)
This may well be the most provocative film on the list. Made by Michael Moore, who is described in the trailer as “the most feared film director in America,” it hits Wall Street hard, gives voice to some of the views held by ordinary Americans, and goes after the ideology of free market capitalism. It does so in the context of the social cost of the financial crisis in the United States. An early line by Moore provides a good indication of the content: “This is capitalism, a system of taking and giving, mostly taking.” The documentary shows how those being evicted from their homes or laid off from their jobs feel, something that statistics cannot adequately convey. Here is a line from an American being evicted from his home: “There’s gotta be some kind of rebellion between the people that have nothing and the people that’s got it all.” The film openly questions the political power of financial institutions. (It has some shocking scenes, such as one in which the chairman of Merrill Lynch tells US President Ronald Reagan, who is making a speech, to “speed it up.”) Moore documents the failures of capitalism in the United States, how the regulatory system seems to privatize profits and socialize losses, and how large financial institutions write the rules.

Why Are We All in Debt? (2009; documentary; 26 minutes; alternative monetary system)
This documentary is the shortest film on my list. As the title suggests, it addresses a fundamental question that puzzles many: How come we are all in debt? The principal writer and presenter in this documentary is the Islamic finance author and former bond-derivatives dealer Tarek El Diwany. He points out that according to conventional wisdom, both the disease and the cure of the financial crisis are the same: “On the one hand, we are told that our financial crisis is the result of too much debt. But then we are told that the solution is that the banks lend more. How can that be?” Made in England, it is probably the only Islamic finance–themed documentary of its kind. Taking a historical perspective, the film explains the origin of paper money, modern-day interest, and fractional reserve banking and its impact on the world around us. The documentary describes paper money as part of the problem: “Paper money is a promise to pay that is never kept. You can’t go to a bank and get your ten pounds’ worth of gold.” The film does not just explain a problem, it also offers a solution — an alternative financial system in which the money supply is controlled by neither the banking establishment nor the government.

Inside Job (2010; documentary; 105 minutes; financial crisis and regulation)
One of the most insightful documentaries on the 2008 financial crisis, this film, narrated by Matt Damon, makes the case that the crisis could have been avoided if regulation had been adequate. An early line sets the tone: “This crisis was not an accident. It was caused by an out-of-control industry.” It is similar in spirit to Capitalism: A Love Story but strikes a more serious tone and goes about analyzing the crisis, largely through a series of interviews with well-placed individuals — politicians, journalists, and academics. As described by director Charles Ferguson, the documentary is about “the systemic corruption of the United States by the financial services industry and the consequences of that systemic corruption.” Made in the United States, Iceland, England, France, Singapore, and China, the film has its share of powerful scenes and hard-hitting interviews with academics and policymakers alike. In a hearing where representatives of Wall Street are being grilled by US legislators, one legislator passionately says: “You come to us today, telling us, ‘We are sorry, and we won’t do it again. Trust us.’ Well, I have some people in my constituency, and they actually robbed some of your banks. And they say the same thing.”

Too Big to Fail (2011; drama; 99 minutes; systemic risk)
Based on the book with the same title, this film is about the 2008 financial crisis, thebankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, and the subsequent bank bailouts. Its title is a phrase that has entered into the popular lexicon because of the financial crisis. Like Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, this docudrama covers the subject of moral hazard. The US Treasury Secretary is shown saying, “We are not bailing out Lehman. Wall Street has a gambling problem. If government keeps covering their losses, they never learn anything.” Like many films on my list, this one is highly critical of Wall Street. Still, the film is unusual because it provides a reconstruction of the closed-door meetings of important real-life figures — such as the US Treasury Secretary, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, and heads of investment banks — as they negotiate the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). You have to follow the dialogue closely to know what is going on, which probably makes it more suitable for hard-core finance fans. At the end of the film, viewers are told that the remaining Wall Street institutions are, once again, too big to fail.

More Films about Finance
It was hard to decide where to cut off the list, and 20 is a rather arbitrary number. If your taste for finance-themed films isn’t sated by my list, here are some others you might enjoy.
Drama/Thriller: Rollover (1981; 116 minutes; currency crisis); Quicksilver (1986; drama; 99 minutes; derivatives trading); The Bank (2001; 104 minutes; foreclosure); A Good Year (2006; 118 minutes; private wealth); The Last Day of Lehman Brothers(2009; 60 minutes; bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers); Arbitrage (2012; 107 minutes; accounting fraud).
ComedyWorking Girl (1988; 115 minutes; mergers and acquisitions).
Documentary: Trader (1987; 56 minutes; futures trading); Super Rich: The Greed Game (2008; 60 minutes; wealth accumulation); The Love of Money (2009; 90 minutes; analysis of financial crisis); Goldman Sachs: Power and Peril (2010; 44 minutes; Goldman Sachs); “The Warning,” on PBS’s Frontline (2009; 56 minutes; securities regulation); Freakonomics (2010; 93 minutes; applied economics);Investment Banking (2011; 32 minutes; investment banking); The Flaw (2011; 78 minutes; analysis of financial crisis).
There are a lot more finance documentaries than nonfiction movies. If you would like to explore more finance documentaries, you may want to visit Finance Documentaries.

Finance Films to Be Made
Watching these films, I realized that there are finance films that are waiting to be made — some with a decidedly more hopeful view of our industry’s future. Here are a few ideas that come to mind:
  • Laurence Kotlikoff’s proposal for limited purpose banking, an alternative financial system, would likely make a thought-provoking documentary.
  • Nassim Taleb’s book Black Swan, together with his other books, could be turned into an interesting and insightful film that challenges conventional wisdom.
  • Islamic finance generates so much news and many publications, but so far we have not seen a documentary that analyzes the industry and documents its history.
  • Our behavioral anomalies in matters of finance, be it loss aversion or mental accounting, could make an entertaining and enlightening film.
  • Even though much is said and published about sustainable and responsible investing (SRI), it seems there are no documentaries on the theme yet.
International Films
The films on my list tend to be from North America or Western Europe. There clearly is room for films from other parts of the world. It is, however, relatively difficult to find finance-themed international films that have English descriptions and subtitles.