5 trends we’re watching this week

5 trends in finance this week

[alert type=yellow ]Every week at Tradestreaming, we’re tracking and analyzing the top trends impacting the finance industry. The following is a list of important things going on we think are worth paying attention to. For more in depth trendfollowing, subscribe to Tradestreaming’s newsletters .[/alert]

1. 5 things Goldman Sachs’ new online consumer bank is not (Tradestreaming): Goldman Sachs is pretty serious about growing its consumer banking. The bank has bought GE consumer banking business, hired some serious industry players to take the helm and now, Goldman has launched internet banking. Opening a GS bank account online with a $1 min could seriously appeal to the 99% who don’t bank with the firm. But the new online offering, well, isn’t much to write home about…

2. Could Apple be your next bank? (The Financial Brand): Is the opportunity to provide a better user interface for banking services a potential for Apple in the future? If so, what are the risks to the legacy banking system?

3. Slowdown in marketplace lending? Maybe, but digitization is on fire (Tradestreaming): The growth of marketplace lending is certainly slowing by most accounts. But contrasting all this talk about a slowdown in online lending, technology providers that service the industry are saying that they aren’t seeing any of it, though. That’s because they’re hard at work helping marketplace lending platforms securitize their offerings.

4. 6 awesome things hit show Billions says about today’s financial industry (Tradestreaming): Part of Billions’ appeal is its genuinely realistic portrayal of the financial industry: from the fleece vests traders wear, to the games played on the trading floor, to the lingo used discussing a trading idea in front of a Bloomberg machine. The show is amassing a strong following in the financial community and the show’s plot does a good idea highlighting nuances only industry insiders could pick up on

5. Christine Duhaime: Iran to take leading tech role as it rejoins the global finance community (Tradestreaming): The international business and finance community has identified an enormous market of opportunity in Iran, and believes the time is rapidly approaching that open trade is becoming a reality. Iran appears serious about building out a fintech hub. Christine Duhaime, who’s helping to connect the international finance community with the emerging country, provides her perspective on what’s going down.

6 awesome things hit show Billions says about today’s financial industry

what billions says about the finance industry

It wasn’t a huge surprise when Showtime’s “Billions” was renewed for a second season in late January. The first season of the show portrays the interplay between a hedge fund manager, Bobby “Axe” Axelrod and the regulators trying to bring him down. It’s a great game of cat and mouse that has done a great job marketing to and building an audience of financial professionals.

People love this show: it had nearly 3 million viewers for its premiere and ended its first season with an audience of 6.5 million, according to Showtime.

Part of Billions’ appeal is its genuinely realistic portrayal of the financial industry: from the fleece vests traders wear, to the games played on the trading floor, to the lingo used discussing a trading idea in front of a Bloomberg machine.

Here are 6  things that Billions says about today’s financial industry:

1. Hedge funds can make things really hard for corporate CEOs (and make them spill their coffee)

In this scene, a CEO of a family-owned Twinkie business receives a call from IR saying that Axe Capital was amassing a position in his firm’s stock. He’s not too happy.

2. The industry isn’t well liked by the average man on the street

After word gets out that Axe was busy trading the terrible news on 9/11 while his partners perished, he becomes kind of persona non grata. Employees of his firm aren’t lionized like techies at Facebook or Google are. They have to stomach some anger directed at them (as well as some flotsam and jetsam thrown their way).

3. In spite of all the tech surrounding them, finance types still use the phone

In an industry that employs super smart and industrious people, finance has always been one of the largest consumers of technology. Funny, people still prefer to use phones to discuss trading ideas and negotiating deals, avoiding putting things into the written word. This works to the advantage of Paul Giamatti’s character, Chuck Rhoades, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He’s busy bugging and monitoring Axe Capital’s trading discussions in pursuit of finding inside information.

4. You’re more likely to hear Metallica playing in a top financial firm than Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

Axe loves Metallica. And frankly, who doesn’t. In one episode, he rounds up his high school buddies and flies them out on a private jet to see a show. Bonus: they also get backstage and get to hang out and shmooze with Lars. These guys like to party. Hard.

5. Finance has its own codes, people who stay love it
Axe is passionate about building value in his firm for all stakeholders. He’s proud of what he’s built and he works extremely hard to keep growing it, no matter what adversity comes at him. He does it because he cares and loves what he does.

6. Finance guys turn into good family men

Axe has every chance in the world to cheat on his wife. He doesn’t. He has every chance in the world to work long hours and miss putting his kids to bed. He doesn’t. He’s a family man at heart and that’s more important to him than anything. Here’s Axe driving his kids around. Look at that big ol’ grin.


How Showtime built an audience of financial professionals for hit show, Billions

Billions Gaming the American Dream Showtime

If TV offers a glimpse into a society’s tastes, Showtime’s new hit, Billions, may show that America is still fascinated with finance. The show tracks hedge fund billionaire, Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod, played by Damian Lewis who’s back on the network after starring in hit espionage serial, Homeland.

The show has a growing following of loyal fans who tune in every Sunday night to see what’s next for Axe Capital. Showtime revealed that Billions enjoyed the most successful debut performance the channel has logged to date, scoring over 3 million views and counting. According to Deadline, prior record holder Ray Donovan recorded 2.91 million views including linear premiere night and advance sampling on subscriber platforms in 2013.

Main character Bobby Axelrod is a likable, if not easily irascible, figure who can be a faithful husband, attentive father, and loyal friend while also running a fund built on trading inside information. Beyond his ego, Axe’s main nemesis is Chuck Rhoades, an old-monied U.S. Attorney for New York hell-bent to rein in Wall Street excesses. Rhoades is played by Paul Giamatti. The cat and mouse game escalates quickly as Chuck maniacally builds a case against Axe, who proves pretty resourceful at wiggling or thrashing his way out of every trap the prosecutor sets for him.

Some believe the main story line was inspired by US Attorney Preet Bharara’s pursuit of criminal charges against hedge-fund mogul Steve Cohen (though the show’s producers deny this connection ). But, there’s a growing sense of empathy viewers have with Axe, who, in spite of the fact he’s made billions via clearly illegal research methods used by his analysts, seems a genuinely affable rags-to-riches underdog. Rhoades, on the other hand, just doesn’t enjoy the same support among viewers in his ruthless pursuit of justice. It’s that contrast that’s another major theme throughout the series.

Here’s Lewis in an interview with the WSJ about his role: He says that position, along with Axe’s blue-collar background, is part of his appeal to the audience. “Immediately it’s a sort of David-and-Goliath story. You find yourself oddly rooting for an underdog,” even though he now works in a gleaming-glass building filled with valuable art.

Whether Axe is dodging a battery charge for slugging someone who drove his children while drunk or partying with the band before a Metallica show, users are rooting for him.

Launch and marketing of the show
The show, which debuted early in 2016, was heavily marketed to finance professionals. The WSJ, via its new content studio, produced a minisite for the show’s launch. The marketing website, entitled Gaming the American Dream, includes a short history of hedge funds, a look into who these money managers are and what they like to spend their billions on. As part of the marketing package, there’s also interview footage with real people who live and breathe this world.

According to Adweek, the show is also growing via strong influencer marketing. Goldman Sachs scheduled a screening of the pilot and hosted a panel discussion with the show’s writers and producers to discuss the show’s themes and characters. Showtime’s EVP and CMO Don Buckley remarked, “We think it’s going to be an important center of influence for conversation about the show.”

The show also ran a marketing promotion with swanky travel site, Jetsetter, including a survey that asked users to input where they’d travel if they were billionaires. The site, which caters to wealthy people looking to book exotic vacation packages, created 4 trip packages as recommendation depending on how users completed the quiz.

In a run-up to the debut episode, Showtime also partnered with music discovery app, Shazam. Users of the app could scan real US currency to unlock special content. Fans were encouraged to use the visual recognition feature of the app and scan any $1, $5 or $20 bill — each bill had unique content associated with it.

#TeamAxe in action. #Showtime #Billions #TV #BTS #SHOonSet #DamianLewis

A photo posted by Billions (@sho_billions) on

The show is very active on social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Showtime uses these channels to complement activity with insider views, commentary, apparel sales, and sneak peeks at future content.

Showtime is currently advertising its show, along with an offer for a free trial of its service, on prime time TV. The following ad was aired early in March on CBS during the show, 48 Hours.

Building an audience within the finance industry

Part of the magic the show is that it’s come post 2008 at a time when finance and its masters-of-the-universe leaders have been toppled from their public pedestals. In a world that doesn’t trust Wall Street, it could have been easy to produce a grassroots series that mocks this world and rejects the ostentatious wealth that it’s produced. But Showtime didn’t do that — instead, Axe is seen as a mega rich every-man, who’s not above helping out the struggling owning of a pizza joint he used to frequent as a kid. He’s shown as an attentive father, reading stories to his kids and playing with them on all fours. Axe seems just like us, except that he’s making million-dollar trades, kicking underperforming management out of a closely-held family business, and winning at merger arbitrage.

Much like Silicon Valley’s fanbase among entrepreneurs and employees in startups, Billions is captivating financial industry types. Dealbreaker, which itself covers the people and industry portrayed in the show, recaps the show regularly and provides its own layer of analysis of each episode. Others have said that it’s the first show to really get Wall Street right. So, while the show hasn’t received a lot of critical acclaim to date (save for the acting performances of Lewis and Giamatti), its realistic portrayal of the insider baseball of the finance industry (down to the fleece vests Axe and his analysts wear and the drinking games they play) may be enough of a following to make it a successful series.

From Maureen Ryan, a TV critic at Variety:

So Billions… is in the “buy” column for now. If it strays too far into repetition, and if its palpable energy and verve can’t hide a tendency toward predictability — common enough occurrences on soaps about rich people, and on Showtime programs in particular — it’d be easy to dump the show as ruthlessly as Bobby Axelrod excises a poor performer from his portfolio. But in the first half of its season, the lively momentum and diverting character studies of “Billions” offer reasonable dividends for those willing to invest.

That leaves room for future financial dramas. Maybe next up for Wall Street will be a reality show about marketplace lending?