Advisors offer hot tips…on movies

By Vikram Barhat | August 13, 2010 | Last updated on August 13, 2010
3 min read

Advisors find finance flicks amusing and frustrating. Frustrating because they perpetuate a cowboy image of the industry focused on greed with no concept of duty of care or responsibility to the client.

Movies like these, they say, hurt the industry as they create an image that either detracts people from trusting advisors or makes them expect their advisors to call with hot ‘get rich quick’ tips.

All things considered, advisors still love movies, and love them enough to not just watch them, but recommend them to others. We asked around, and here are their 10 hot tips:

Wall Street (1987): The absolute classic. The value in the movie is that it was predictive of the two crashes that would come much later, but for the same reason most bubbles implode…greed! Quotable quote: “The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”

Boiler Room (2000): Based on a telemarketing scam where salesmen aggressively push near worthless stock on unsuspecting clients for lucrative profits. It’s obviously exaggerated and ‘Hollywoodized’ but pump and dump schemes like this have existed before and many people have been burned. Quotable quote: “Anybody who tells you money is the root of all evil doesn’t f***ing have any.”

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005): Based on the best-selling eponymous book, it’s a captivating documentary about the Enron Corporation, its faulty and corrupt business practices, and how they led to its fall. It exposes the timeless theme of greed-coupled-with-poor-oversight that has caused episodes of pain and subsequent soul-searching in the capital markets every so often. Quotable quote: “At least when the Titanic went down, the lights were on.”

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992): It’s worthwhile to watch because it’s indicative of the “sales” nature of an advisor’s business (for the most part) and the motivation that it takes to make the “next sale” so as not to be out of a job. Quotable quote: “You can’t think on your feet, you oughta keep your mouth closed.”

Double Indemnity (1944): A classic about an insurance salesman that plans to have his wife have an “accidental death” so he and his lady friend could claim the life and accidental death benefits (hence the double indemnity). Greed isn’t that good. Quotable quote: “Do I laugh now, or wait ’til it gets funny?”

Pretty Woman (1990): The perils of limiting your customer base to just one. Sort of what McDonald’s and Wal-Mart do to small independent suppliers. A contemporary Hollywood fairy tale of strange bedfellows. Quotable quotes: “No matter what they say, it’s all about money.”

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946): After panic results in a run at a local bank, it survives a hostile takeover attempt through the generosity of the local people. Also highlights the importance of giving back to the community. Quotable quotes: “You’re worth more dead than alive!”

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948): A Humphrey Bogart classic about a get-rich-quick scheme that doesn’t work because of greed and deceit amongst the business partners. Quotable Quote: “You know, the worst ain’t so bad when it finally happens.”

The Joneses (2009): The movie teaches some lessons about overextending your credit by living a lifestyle you can’t afford, about true happiness, and trying to keep up with the Joneses. Quotable Quote: “They are not just living the American Dream, they are selling it!”

Trading Places (1983): A comedy showing the drastic contrast between the different social/professional classes that was still in place in NYC in the 1980s, running the gamut from Wall Street to Skid Row. The humour is based around how fast people’s lives can be made or broken in NYC. Quotable quote: “You know, it occurs to me that the best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people.”


Vikram Barhat