Wall Street bankers say “Game of Thrones” is just like real life for them

Plenty of life in HBO Go.
Plenty of life in HBO Go.
Image: HBO
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Tech geeks in Silicon Valley are obviously die-hard fans of the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones. Apparently, so are finance geeks on Wall Street. Bankers, lawyers and hedge funders adore the backstabbing and score settling in the show, which echo cutthroat dealings on finance.

The show, which is based on a book series, is about several noble families battling for control of the Iron Throne. The political scheming and surprising twists are one source of appeal; galling bloodbaths are another. (It is now one of the most watched shows on cable TV.)

Case in point: A senior banker at one of the largest Wall Street firms told Quartz that one episode reminded him of the time his father died. When he was away from the office to arrange and attend the funeral, one of his closest colleagues cozied up to a longtime client with whom he was having issues. “I considered him as kind of a brother and he tried to steal my client. I came back to work earlier than expected to stop him,” the banker said. “People are vicious in this business, including me.”

Treachery, another Game of Thrones theme, is also pertinent to Wall Street. Although much has been made about banks working to reduce conflict of interest issues, it’s common for firms to switch from one client to another. For example: switching from the seller in a deal to the buyer to maximize profit. Law firms do it, too, although to a lesser degree. “We switch loyalties all the time because it’s all about where you can get the most fees,” one banker at a European firm said. “So the lesson is there is no real loyalty.”

Eric Jackson, founder of hedge fund Ironfire Capital, says the show highlights all the lessons he needed to learn about business. He even wrote a piece for Forbes about it. Some of his tips from the show are “no one ever forgets a slight,” “trust no one,” and “never underestimate the power behind the throne.”

Brian DeChesare, who founded the website Mergers & Inquisitions (which gives tips on how to break into investment banking) is also a fan. He said on the site that Game of Thrones is all about “political intrigue, fighting over petty issues and grudges, family feuds, betrayal, and backstabbing people in order to advance. In other words, exactly what you do in finance all day.”

He uses quotes from various Game of Thrones characters as lessons for budding investment bankers. For instance, from the quote, “Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid? That is the only time a man can be brave.” DeChesare derives the following: “If you want to start your own hedge fund or other business, you haven’t been through anything until you almost lose it all and survive by the skin of your teeth (or lose it all and have to start over).”

The finale of the third season of Game of Thrones airs June 9 in the US.