In some ways, Martin Byrde resembles what many see as the typical financial advisor: He’s a little nerdy, he loves business, he’s great with numbers and he seems dedicated to his clients. In saying that, his main client is a Mexican drug lord, so it’s difficult to know if he genuinely cares about helping the murderous kingpin launder his dirty money, or if he’s just doing it because he fears for his life (likely, a bit of both). Unlike the characters in other films, Byrde doesn’t flaunt his wealth — he’s downright cheap in some scenes — but he still has that same reckless abandon seen in other fictional advisors. If Byrde used his intellect for good, he’d probably have a healthy book of business.
Spencer Strasmore, Ballers (portrayed by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson)
Ex-NFLer and Super Bowl winner Spencer Strasmore stumbled into the financial life after badly mismanaging his own money. Strasmore is the most likable financial advisor that Hollywood has produced. He’s a genuinely nice guy, he cares about his clients and he seems to enjoy his job. However, you might call Strasmore a life coach instead of a financial advisor. Yes, he manages money, but he’s also getting his friends — football players he wants to be his clients — out of trouble. Most advisors are not, for example, doing damage control after a client punches someone at a bar. Like most depictions of advisors, there’s some element of truth to his portrayal, but a whole lot of fiction, too.
Joe Krutel, Ballers (portrayed by Rob Corddry)
While Ballers’ Strasmore is mild-mannered, Joe Krutel is over-the-top. Krutel is Strasmore’s boss. He’s a fun-loving kind of guy, but he’s brash, laser focused on sales and ready to party. He’s always out to make money and get his protégé to sign up more football players. He’s certainly fun to watch, and he’s not evil like some of the money-hungry Hollywood-created advisors. But, he’s exactly the kind of guy people imagine when they think of financial advisors.
Gordon Gekko, Wall Street (portrayed by Michael Douglas)
It’s hard to find someone who has done more damage to the reputation of financial advisors than Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko. He’s an uber narcissist who is out to make money at all costs, including engaging in insider trading and other illegal activity. While Gekko is not based on the vast majority of advisors and money managers, that doesn’t mean his win-at-all-costs persona is completely inaccurate. Gekko is a composite of several financial fraudsters — producer Edward Pressman said that the character was partly based on Michael Milken, the Junk Bond King — and there certainly are investors and advisors out there who want to make as money as they can for themselves. But if anyone thinks that Gekko is a typical financial professional, they need to do their homework.
Jordan Belfort, Wolf of Wall Street (portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio)
While Gekko gets seduced by the power of money, Wolf of Wall Street’s Jordan Belfort, based on the memoir of the real-life stockbroker of the same name, is taken in with just how much partying a few million bucks can provide. Most financial professionals aren’t hard drinking, drug-taking party animals, which is how Belfort is portrayed, but most advisors, especially ones who have worked on Wall Street, have surely heard stories about peers who have spent their eye-watering bonuses in questionable ways. While the high-pressure-selling tactics used by Belfort’s team is foreign to most advisors, some people do push clients into products they may not want. If it wasn’t for the fact that there’s a real-life Belfort who was convicted for some of the fraud portrayed in the movie, you’d think this was an over-the-top treatment of what financial life is like. Fortunately, for most advisors and their clients, that’s exactly what it is: fiction.