Career Advice Blog

Finance Careers as Seen in the Movies

By: Kaplan Professional Education

Jun. 27, 2016

Jordan Belfort in Wolf of Wall Street - Kaplan

You’ve seen finance professionals in the movies, but what do people in these jobs actually do? That’s what we’re tackling in today’s article. Learn more about these famous characters’ jobs in the real world.


Jordan Belfort – The Wolf of Wall Street (Stockbroker)

If you’ve seen The Wolf of Wall Street, you know Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) pleaded guilty to fraud and stock market manipulation crimes. While Belfort was obviously a criminal and operated a phony financial firm that was defrauding clients, some of the portrayal of Belfort’s job as a broker-dealer (stockbroker) was accurate. Broker-dealers do take and fill orders to buy and sell stocks and other securities products. To become a broker-dealer, you must pass two licensing exams, the FINRA Series 7 and Series 63 exams, which Belfort did. These exams prove that a broker is knowledgeable about what he/she is selling and the regulations and laws in the industry. Broker-dealers also spend a great deal of time on the phone cold calling prospective clients—particularly in their early years when they need to build a book of clients to invest.

Ruben Feffer – Along Came Polly (Life Insurance Underwriter)

Ruben Feffer in Along Came Polly - Kaplan Insurance companies insure both property and people. In the case of Along Came Polly, Ruben Feffer (Ben Stiller) specializes in determining the risk of insuring individuals. Although his title in the movie is “risk analyst,” Feffer is actually a life insurance underwriter. Underwriters use computer software programs to determine whether or not to approve an applicant, just like Feffer does for his client, Leland Van Lew (Bryan Brown). Many underwriters specialize in a field such as life, health, or property and casualty. The criteria that underwriters use to determine risk varies depending on the type of insurance being applied for. If a decision is difficult, they may consult additional sources like medical records or credit scores. But, unlike Feffer does in the movie, they will probably not spend quality time on the racquetball court with the client or watch the client parachute off a building to determine the riskiness of their lifestyle.

Harold Crick – Stranger Than Fiction (Auditor)

Harold Crick in Stranger Than Fiction - KaplanIn Stranger Than Fiction, Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) audits Ana Pascal’s (Maggie Gyllenhaal) bakery for the IRS. An independent auditor, like Harold Crick, is brought into an organization to report on whether the financial statements are presented fairly and are in compliance with government regulations. Some auditors are employed through the IRS and audit organizations that have not been compliant, like Pascal’s bakery. Other times, organizations will hire an auditor to come in because it provides investors and lenders with enhanced confidence in the financial statements. An auditor talks to management to get an understanding of the organization, operations, financial reporting, and any known errors. They do tasks like evaluating procedures, observing inventory counts, and testing documentation supporting account balances, all of which can be seen in the movie.

Louis Tully – Ghostbusters I & II (Accountant)

Louis Tully in Ghostbusters - KaplanvFinance even plays a role in Ghostbusters. Although Louis Tully’s (Rick Moranis) character is primarily focused on being possessed by The Gatekeeper in the original Ghostbusters, he is an accountant. In Ghostbusters II, Louis becomes a personal accountant and tax attorney for the Ghostbusters. What does a personal accountant do exactly? They monitor and record the flow of money through an organization or for an individual. Accountants verify the accuracy of money transactions, make sure transactions are all legal, and ensure they comply with government regulations. Personal accountants also provide financial guidance and advice to help individuals or organizations save money, which can be seen in Ghostbusters II.

Tim Lippe – Cedar Rapids (Insurance Agent)

Tim Lippe in Cedar Rapids - KaplanTim Lippe (Ed Helms) is a small-town insurance agent from Iowa in the comedy Cedar Rapids. Although Lippe spends the majority of the movie at an annual insurance convention in the “big city” of Cedar Rapids, IA, his portrayal of an insurance sales agent is still noteworthy. Insurance agents work with clients to find the right insurance products to suit the clients’ needs. Agents also spend a lot of time marketing their services and building their network. One of the best ways to build a network is to keep clients happy and build up a solid reputation, resulting in free word of mouth advertising. This is why the stakes are so high to bring home the convention’s top award in Cedar Rapids.

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