Nov 13, 2020 - Economy

HBO's "Industry" puts a Gen Z spin on the finance workplace

Photo: Amanda Searle/HBO

With “Industry,” a new series on the finance industry, HBO is hoping that a focus on a cast of Gen Z characters, along with a setting in London instead of New York, can provide a fresh look at a well-explored topic.

Why it matters: The show airs at a time of reckoning for the corporate world over continued sexism and racism.

The big picture: Set at Pierpoint & Co., a fictional elite investment bank in London, the show chronicles what happens to a group of young new hires as they enter the contemporary industry and compete for a few permanent spots at the firm.

  • It features Harper (Myha’la Herrold), a Black woman from New York who's determined to succeed at Pierpoint despite her low-income background, and Yasmin (Marisa Abela), who seeks to prove herself as more than a pretty, privileged face.

What they're saying: “The key that unlocked it was the ‘kids’ thing… writing about the experiences of people with the least amount of power in those industries,” show co-creator Mickey Down (a former investment banker) told Axios in an interview.

  • Almost any other attempt at writing about the finance world would feel “kind of derivative of something that's come before it,” he added. (Nevertheless, there’s a well-placed reference in one episode to Michael Lewis’ seminal 1989 book,“Liar’s Poker.")

Between the lines: “Harper and Yasmin were really the thing that cracked the whole show open for us because it felt like we were looking at a world through… sets of eyes this world had never been looked at before,” co-creator (and also a former banker) Konrad Kay said.

  • He adds: “You can't really write about a workplace in 2020... without touching on some of the kind of cultural aspects of work life in 2020, after the last five years, whether that be, you know, workplace abuse, certain types of toxic workplace practices.”
  • Harper and Yasmin — opposites in many ways given their personal and class backgrounds — face many of the well-documented challenges of women in male-dominated industries, from sexist colleagues to the all-too-common competition among some women in cutthroat workplaces.
  • Their male peers wrestle with societal expectations, too.
  • And while all of them emerge as "outsiders" in some form, Harper's situation as an American recruit and a Black woman without traditional credentials quickly casts her as the one with the toughest challenge.

Our thought bubble: “Industry” isn’t likely to break new ground about the finance world, but its characters’ adventures may provide intrigue enough for viewers looking for a coming-of-age show.

Go deeper: HBO's "Silicon Valley" takes on Big Tech's reckoning in its final season

Disclaimer: Axios also has a show on HBO.

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