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.