The best films, books and TV shows about banking

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Investment banking
Commercial awareness


All You Need to Know about the City Parts 1 and 2

by Christopher Stoakes

Longtail, 2011 (latest edition) and 2010

Part One is a no-nonsense introduction to the workings of the City which cuts cleanly through to the information you'll need most. It's designed for novices, but gets to the bottom of an impressively large range of topics, from "What is a bank?" to "market whales" to derivatives and "all that jazz". Part Two, meanwhile, takes the reader beyond the City and on a tour of the world's other leading financial markets, from its biggest rival Wall Street to rising Asian financial hubs to the offshore tax havens. As the work of anyone working in finance will have an international dimension, it's an essential journey for those heading into the sector.


by John Lanchester

Faber & Faber, 2012

Capital is one of the most comprehensive fictional takes on the financial crisis to date, and was much discussed on its publication earlier this year. Lanchester's narrative is organised around an upwardly mobile south London residential street, which allows him to range over the financial crisis geographically, temporally and socially. His characters - including a banker, a Polish builder, various members of a Muslim family, a dying elderly woman, a conceptual artist, a Zimbabwean asylum seeker and a young Senegalese footballer - reflect the texture of today's London, and their short and self-absorbed narratives effectively evoke the various desires of its inhabitants that allowed 2008's banking catastrophe to erupt.


Inside Job

directed by Charles H. Ferguson. 2010

This Oscar-winning documentary about the financial crisis is both an engaging history of events and an economic tutorial. It covers an impressive list of interlinked topics - the rise of derivatives, banks' increasing use of mortgage-backed CDOs, the sub-prime boom, the Lehman bankruptcy, the failure of AIG, consolidation in the banking sector, the role of credit rating agencies and the SEC investigation of Goldman Sachs - through a mixture of broad-brush narrative and clear explanations from a great range of talking heads. Regulators, financiers, academics, politicians, and even a therapist and ex-brothel madam all have their say.

Margin Call

directed by J.C. Chandor. 2011

A fictionalised version of real-life events in a Wall Street investment bank in the midst of the financial crisis. It's centred around the realisation of the startling level of risk to which the bank is exposed through its trading in financial products constructed from bundles of subprime mortgages. The revelation is rapidly escalated through the bank's employees, who are played by various big-ish Hollywood names. And a crisis builds, highlighting the potentially severe consequences of knowledge vacuums in the upper echelons of financial institutions. A melodramatic insight into the gory details of life at an investment bank.

TV and radio shows

Bank of Dave

Channel 4. 2012

Two-part documentary telling the story of Lancashire businessman Dave Fishwick's quest to set up his own new bank to provide finance for small and medium-sized businesses on his home turf. Includes great analysis in simple terms of what exactly banks are and the regulation surrounding them, and taps into the current massive debates about how and to what extent the UK's banking industry needs to change. It's also a lesson in how a new business can get off the ground, and simply an absorbing and inspiring story. First aired earlier this year and still available on Channel 4's internet catch-up service 4OD.

Planet Money

NPR. Ongoing

Fabulous weekly podcast from US not-for-profit media organisation NPR which covers a wide range of finance and business topics in a style that's intellectually rigorous but also engaging and irreverent. Expect an assessment of eurozone economies set in a Manhattan continental cheese emporium, a look at Facebook's prospects from the perspective of a small business thinking about advertising on the site, or an analysis of how Mormons decide how much tax to pay, all interspersed with blasts of indie music and amiable chatter between the co-hosts. Available for free on NPR's website or from iTunes.