How Industry 's Creators Made An Exciting Show Out of Banking Lingo

·9 min read
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industry-1

Myha'la Herrold in Industry Credit - Simon Ridgway—HBO

The HBO series Industry is back in its second season, following a group of young high finance workers battling it out in The City, London’s version of Wall Street. The first season centered on recent grads—tenacious American Harper (Myha’la Herrold), ambitious publishing heiress Yasmin (Marisa Abela), and working-class Oxford grad Robert (Harry Lawtey)—through their first year working at London’s top financial firm Pierpoint & Co. Season 2 jumps ahead a few years to show these older, but perhaps not wiser, characters settling into their respective jobs—still at Pierpont—while also questioning why their ambitions led them there in the first place.

It’s easy to get drawn into the workplace drama of the twenty-something characters in Industry, almost like if Euphoria met The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s often much harder to understand what they’re talking about on the trading floor. “I saw some tweets of people saying they love the show, but they have no idea of what’s going on,” Mickey Down, the show’s co-creator, tells TIME. “We forget that actually the majority of the audience has absolutely no idea what any of this terminology, plus all the British slang, means. It’s a miracle that people are able to follow it at all.”

Early episodes of Industry which were inspired by Down and co-creator Konrad Kay’s experiences working in finance, were packed with banking jargon like “yard,” trader speak for a billion dollars, or “payrolls,” finance code for the U.S. jobs report, which tends to decide whether the market will be bullish or bearish. The pair decided to become “slightly more approachable” for the second season, which premiered Aug. 1. The often complicated workplace lingo hasn’t gone away in season 2, but Down and Kay say they have found a better way to incorporate it into the story.

“People who are slightly put off by season 1, I think they can come to this season knowing that it’s a slightly more accessible thing,” Kay says, noting they went “very heavy on the jargon, almost like Star Trek does” in the first season in hopes of keeping the series as true to real life as they could. “But it’s almost like a foreign language. It’s super alienating.”

What the creators have since realized is that a majority of viewers aren’t all that concerned about understanding the overly complicated financial dialogue. They’re interested in the world of Industry which expertly depicts the pressures that come with a high-stress job—especially, when you’re just starting out.

Myha'la Herrold and Ken Leung in Industry<span class="copyright">Simon Ridgway—HBO</span>
Myha'la Herrold and Ken Leung in IndustrySimon Ridgway—HBO

How banking terms draw out Industry’s characters and give the show a sense of foreboding

Early in the season 1 premiere, Harper delivers a confusing bit of dialogue: “Ask Rishi for the level of one-year, one-year Euro swap in 500K DVO1,” that Down says is meant to be somewhat nonsensical. “It’s the first bit of fancy jargon in the show,” he says. “And you’re meant to hear it and say, ‘What the f-ck did she just say there?’” She’s “asking for the price in an interest rate swap with, technically, the right jargon,” Kay explains. “But for the audience to hear it and hold onto it, it’s almost a fool’s errand.”

It’s why Down is so impressed by how Herrold, who is admittedly not well-versed in financial speak, delivered that particularly difficult line. “People who work on the trading floor are sure of themselves and very confident in their language,” Down says.

The cast has captured that self-assuredness by doing their research, speaking extensively with the Industry creators and those who work in finance to understand the rhythm of how stock traders really speak. Down recalls having dinner with a fairly well-known hedge fund manager who couldn’t believe that Ken Leung, who plays Eric Tao, Pierpoint’s number one producer and Harper’s de facto mentor, had never actually worked on the trading room floor. “He was like, ‘No, he must have!’ And we were like, ‘No, he’s an actor. That’s his job to pretend he worked in trading,’” Down says. “He couldn’t grasp it.”

The series often uses the British versions of common financial terms, which trips up even those who have spent years working on Wall Street. For instance, “Bloomie” is the cutesy nickname the Brits use to talk about the Bloomberg Terminal, the computer software created by the employees of billionaire businessman and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg that finance professionals use to monitor and analyze real-time market data. Unfortunately, the less formal moniker has yet to catch on across the pond. “I saw someone on Twitter doing an Industry fact-check in which they claimed no one uses the term Bloomie to talk about Bloomberg,” Down says. “I think that’s bollocks. It’s a U.K. thing.”

Down and Kay like to infuse the show with British slang that traders in The City use to talk about both work and the extracurricular activities that take place outside of it. An example is “printing,” which can refer to a few different financial-related things: a government issuing new currency or the price of a securities trade being time stamped by an exchange. More often than not though, the traders on Industry use the term to talk about their sex lives without tipping off their bosses. “In The City, someone will ask, ‘Have you guys printed?’” Kay says. “As in print business, like, ‘Have you slept with each other?’”

He notes the term is a “bit risqué and stupid,” but Down says the word does serve an important purpose for those who spend all their time on a Bloomie. “Bloomberg chat is monitored so you have to get around it by pretending to talk about business,” Down says. “So you say, ‘Do you guys print?’ instead of saying, you know, a bolder term.”

In over-the-counter (OTC) trading, the phrase “bid away” refers to a bid from another dealer that exists at the same price or higher. When not on the trading floor, the characters on Industry like to use “bid away” as a bit of off-the-clock slang. “Like ‘catching a bid away,’ is a very strange way of saying someone is paying you to leave to [your job] to go somewhere else,” Kay says. The phrase often pops up in Kay and Down’s WhatsApp chats with friends who still work in the industry. “There’s something very funny about how serious people are when they use these finance terms to talk about their personal life,” Kay says. The Industry creators liked the term so much, they almost named episode 7 in season 2 after it—a clue that not everyone is happy at Pierpoint.

Financial acronyms give Industry a sense of reality, but also a bit of fun

On the show, as in real life, acronyms are preferred by traders, who don’t often have time to elaborate. “RIF,” also known as “reduction in force,” is repeated often throughout the first season of Industry. It’s a reference to the day in which the post-grad hires like Harper, Yasmin, and Robert find out if they’ll keep their jobs. However, the abbreviation is actually something Down and Kay created for the show. “The term ‘reduction in force’ is super corporate,” Kay says. “So we thought these younger people would call it RIF Day because it sounds kind of dystopian”

The much-repeated season 2 acronym “ESG” stands for “Environmental Social Governance,” which, according to Down, is an overused term in the financial industry that refers to ethical investing. He says that sometimes funds or banks will have an ESG mandate, which means they only work with people or businesses that are focused on making a social difference whether that be maintaining a diverse board of governors or working towards clean energy.

ESG initiatives in the financial world have become a “bit of a fad movement,” Down says, that is “being manipulated by financial firms that are finding the most far-fetched definition of it.” An example Down gave was an oil company claiming they were ESG because they were providing energy to Ukraine. He believes it’s “probably the biggest, most pervasive annoying acronym that is currently being used in finance today.”

Early in season 2, Yasmin’s supervisor Kenny (Conor MacNeill) calls a young, wealthy client they are trying to snag a “NARPY account.” It stands for Not a Real Person, referring to “a very small subculture of people, especially in London, who are wildly rich, mostly unemployed, and have a very loose lavish lifestyle,” according to Down. It’s a derogatory term that the writers knew they had to include for just how ridiculous it is. “Konrad and I used to work in finance and, while I was there, I couldn’t stand it,” Down says. “Now I have a real fondness for that world.”

Client Relationship Management Services or CRMS is the place where financial companies “send older people who are not as productive as they once were,” Kay explains. “They can pay them less, but give them a more ambassadorial role that feels bigger, though it’s really smaller.”

It’s where Eric gets sent midway through season 2, but it’s a plot point that Kay notes has recently come to fruition at some big-name financial firms. “We found out that Goldman Sachs were actually doing that to some of their senior sales people,” he says of the pandemic shake-up.

It’s not the only season 2 storyline that has come to pass. On the show, which was written months ago, Amazon is said to be moving into the healthcare space, something the company is now really doing with their bid for primary-care firm One Medical. “We have an amazing consultant this season, who we call the secret consultant because he’s very high up in the industry and doesn’t want to be named,” Down says. “He has his ear to the ground about this kind of stuff in a scarily accurate way.”