The 2013 Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle by Martin Scorsese was based on the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort, former stockbroker current motivational speaker (no really look). After the events depicted in the film, Belfort was convicted to a 22-month sentence because of his involvement in security fraud through his company Stratton Oakmont.
Unlike Belfort, the movie was a breakaway hit, grossing $392 million.
Every few years there seems to be a movie that inspires people to dip their toes in trading: Wall Street (1987), Boileroom (2000), Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) and Wolf of Wall Street. The people that come up with the titles are obvious not the most creative in Hollywood. The question is most of these movies aren’t exactly beaming indorsement of their protagonists’ activities, so how do they motivate people to trade?
The Glitz and Glamor
Slick backed hair-does, tailored Italian suites, beautiful watches and luxury cars. The shiny world of the stockbroker gleams with black Italian marble and expensive scotch in crystal decanters is in direct contrast with the dullness of everyday life. Oh, and there’s that whole money thing. In the Hollywoodian version of trading, profit comes quick and plentiful – and so do the luxuries that can be bought with said profit. But the truth is trading is a lot, allow me to reintegrate, a lot of work. Stockbrokers that work at firms put in extremely long hours and then after work must network to acquire more clients. This is on-top-of being at work before markets open, to learn what the markets are looking like and being glued to their devices incase anything creates volatility.
The Upward Mobility
Others are tickled by the opportunity to create their own manifest destiny. Most movies present the protagonist broker climbing his/her firm’s hierarchical ladder with break-neck speed. Within a few scenes they go from first day on the floor to full blown partner. In the real world though, becoming a successful stockbroker involves consistency, discipline, stress (a lot of stress), tireless networking, creating and sustain a good reputation – both in terms of returns and ethos.
Most people watch these movies and think that the financial markets are the gateway to endless cash-flow. If you watch enough of these movies though you’ll notice a common thread – greed. Not as an independent concept though, usually its greed and how it ultimately brings the slick-haired stockbrokers undoing. Most industry experts agree that greed is a characteristic that can yield less-than-optimal results by making someone deviate from their trading strategy, ignore their risk management and in the cases of the movies (which is true in real life too) act dishonestly with the worst results, financial ruin and jail.