Viewers of banking drama Industry were left reeling at the ‘realistic’ depiction of the finance industry in last night’s premiere episode that featured sex in public, drug-fuelled nights out and a character who worked himself to death.
The show, which is airing on HBO in the US and BBC Two in the UK, follows a group of ambitious graduates as they compete for a limited number of positions at Pierpoint & Co, a fictional London bank.
In a bombshell twist, one of the group, Hari (Nabhaan Rizwan) was found collapsed in a bathroom cubicle after a gruelling work schedule that saw him sleep at work and leave the office just once in 48 hours.
He kept himself awake by taking Modafinil, a drug used to treat narcolepsy that is touted as a so-called ‘smart drug’ that can help brain performance.
The storyline echoes the real-life tragedy of Moritz Erhardt, a 21-year-old intern at Bank of America Merrill Lynch who was found dead in the shower at his east London flat in 2013.
Bombshell twist: One of the group, Hari (Nabhaan Rizwan) was found collapsed in a bathroom cubicle after a gruelling work schedule that saw him sleep at work and leave the office just once in 48 hours. Pictured, Hari curled up on the bathroom floor in the office
Sex in a bathroom: Meanwhile Robert (Harry Lawtey) gets caught up in the hedonistic side of the job and finds himself struggling to stay awake after pulling an all-nighter during which he took ketamine on the dancefloor and had sex in a club toilet (pictured)
Living the high life: A scene from the trailer showing the bankers celebrating in a club
Struck a chord: Viewers commented how the depiction was reminiscent of the situations they had come across while working in the City in real life
Mr Erhardt, who was just days away from completing his coveted placement, had an epileptic seizure after working for 72 hours straight, although a coroner was unable to rule whether exhaustion had triggered the seizure.
While viewers were left shocked by Hari’s death, some who claimed to have first-hand knowledge of the sector said the drama reflected the characters and pressures of a real-life workplace in the City.
One tweeted: ‘Had it on a delay but I liked #Industry, some very recognisable characters from the milk round. Not sure which bit I liked best though….’
Another posted: ‘I worked in the city for 12 months and those that I worked with were no different to what I saw in #industry. Truly revolting people.’
A third wrote: ‘Whilst it’s not really like my training contract at all, there are characters and scenes in #industry that are close enough to cause a tightening in my stomach and a surge of anxiety.’
The show is penned by British writers Mickey Down and Konrad Kay, who have firsthand knowledge of the world of international finance.
True to life: While viewers were left shocked by Hari’s death, some who claimed to have first-hand knowledge of the sector said the drama reflected the characters and pressures of a real-life workplace in the City. The writers have firsthand knowledge of the sector
Seen through the eyes of an American outsider Harper Stern (Myha’la Herrold), Industry reveals the lengths young professionals will go to secure their dream job.
Hari is one of the few graduates who went to a state school and makes it clear from the start that he is willing to work long days to set himself apart from his private school peers.
‘I’m logging those nocturnal hours, trying to make a good impression,’ he tells Harper after three weeks at the company.
To another graduate, Gus (David Jonsson) leaving the office shortly after 10pm, he says: ‘No one here is going to tell you this, but you need to put in face time,’ to which Gus replies: ‘No I don’t. Staying up all night isn’t going to enhance my work.’
Hari stays at the office long after his colleagues have left, washing down mystery pills with cans of Red Bull. When tiredness eventually overcomes him, he crawls onto the floor of a bathroom cubicle, rolls up his trousers for a pillow, and falls asleep.
On edge: Hari is one of the few graduates who went to a state school and makes it clear from the start that he is willing to work long days to set himself apart from his private school peers
Stimulants: Hari stays at the office long after his colleagues have left, washing down mystery pills with cans of Red Bull
Exhausted: When tiredness eventually overcomes him (pictured), he crawls onto the floor of a bathroom cubicle, rolls up his trousers for a pillow, and falls asleep
Quick turnaround: After sleeping in the toilet, Hari changes his shirt in the cubicle and applies concealer under his eyes to hide his exhaustion
When his superior is made aware he has only left the building once in 48 hours – the electronic key card raises this automatically as a ‘red flag’ – he is ordered to go home but goes to the pub instead.
He briefly heads home before returning to the office a short while later, taking what appears to be Modafinil en route.
It is is reminiscent of the notorious ‘magic roundabout’, where graduates leave a bank in the early hours, take a taxi home, change, shower, then return to work.
His boss later tells him ‘not to stay up all night’ but to find some way to ensure he meets a 6am deadline. Hari proceeds to stay in the office to complete the task.
Moments before the document is due, and after realising he has made a mistake, Hari seeks refuge in a toilet cubicle, where he dies.
Pressure: His boss later tells him ‘not to stay up all night’ but to find some way to ensure he meets a 6am deadline. Hari proceeds to stay in the office to complete the task
Collapses: Moments before the document is due, and after realising he has made a mistake, Hari seeks refuge in a toilet cubicle, where he dies
Discovered: He is found by another intern and the group is ordered not to discuss the death with the press or ‘anyone outside the office’
It is unclear whether the death was caused by the excessive amount of energy drinks he was taking, medication, stimulants, stress, or some other factor.
He is found by another intern and the group is ordered not to discuss the death with the press or ‘anyone outside the office’.
Elsewhere it is revealed Harper needs to forge her college transcript, but proves herself by securing a new client. However she faces a dilemma after the client touches her inappropriately in the back of a taxi on her way home.
Meanwhile Robert (Harry Lawtey) gets caught up in the hedonistic side of the job and finds himself struggling to stay awake after pulling an all-nighter during which he took ketamine on the dancefloor and had sex in a club toilet.
The series also touches on the divide between graduates who attended private school, and those who attended state school.
Newcomer: Seen through the eyes of an American outsider, Harper Stern (Myha’la Herrold), pictured, who has travelled from upstate New York for the scheme, Industry reveals the lengths talented young professionals will go to secure their dream job
Celebration: Harper checks herself into a hotel to celebrate a client victory
Stars: Actors Harry Lawtey, Myha’la Herrold, Marisa Abela, David Jonsson and Nabhaan Rizwan star in Industry. Rizwan’s character died in the episode one twist
Storyline that echoes the real-life tragedy of the death of a Bank of America Merrill Lynch graduate
Moritz Erhardt was a week from completing a coveted placement at Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s London offices, when his body was found in August 2013
Moritz Erhardt was a week from completing a coveted placement at Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s London offices, and was due to be offered a job at the bank, when his body was found in the shower at his temporary accommodation in August 2013.
He had suffered an epileptic seizure that might have been triggered by exhaustion.
An inquest at Poplar Coroner’s Court in east Londonheard that the German student was taking medication for epilepsy, but had not told anyone at the bank about his condition.
Recording a verdict of natural causes, coroner Mary Hassell said Mr Erhardt died after an epileptic seizure, despite regularly taking medication, which may have been brought on by fatigue.
She told the court: ‘Unfortunately, although many many people live with epilepsy and go on to live to old age, sometimes it still causes death very suddenly in this way and sometimes that happens even with a person as young and as fit as Moritz was.’
She went on: ‘One of the triggers for epilepsy is exhaustion and it may be that because Moritz had been working so hard his fatigue was a trigger for the seizure that killed him.
‘But that’s only a possibility and I don’t want his family to go away with the thought that it was something that Moritz did that causes his death. He was a young man living life to the full and he was clearly enjoying his time in London and, whilst it’s possible that fatigue brought about the fatal seizure, it is also possible that it just happened. And it is something that does just happen.’
The inquest heard that Mr Erhardt had suffered from epilepsy since 2010 and was taking medication but had not told anyone at the bank.
He never complained about his working hours or feeling unwell, and even on the day before he was found dead, appeared to be fine, the court heard.
Mr Erhardt’s father, Dr Hans-Georg Dieterle, described his son as sporty and ‘full of life’, but said from the start of 2010 he had suffered one to two epileptic fits a year, but was taking medication for the condition and it was not stopping him from living a normal life.
Dr Dieterle said his son came to London from Germany in June after getting an internship at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and spoke with his parents via email, telephone and Skype.
Speaking through an interpreter, he said: ‘He was enthusiastic, he really enjoyed it. Both his work and his leisure time and being with friends.’
He did not complain to his parents about his working hours, the court heard, but they noticed from the time his emails were sent – sometimes at 5am or 6am – that he had worked through the night.
Juergen Schroeder, Mr Erhardt’s development officer at Merrill Lynch, described him as ‘very motivated, very confident’, but also ‘very humble, very down-to-earth’.
He told the inquest it was difficult to know exactly what hours the student was working, and admitted that most interns worked long hours.
‘I think interns in general do work long hours and sometimes past midnight,’ he said.
‘I would say it’s not only the case at Bank of America Merrill Lynch – it’s the case at most banks in London, it’s the case in Germany, it’s the case in, I think, most parts of the world as well.’
But he said it was not only because of the workload, but also due to peer pressure and competition between ambitious employees to work longer hours than each other.
Mr Schroeder said he later heard that Mr Erhardt had apparently drunk a lot of Red Bull before his death, but was never able to verify the claims.
Dennis Wierer, Mr Erhardt’s mentor at Merrill Lynch, said he saw the student roughly once a week, and heard he was one of the bank’s best interns.
He told the inquest that Mr Erhardt had never raised any issues or concerns and knew that in the past he turned down a project because he would not have had enough time to do it.
Mr Erhardt’s death sparked calls to overhaul the culture of punishingly long hours in the City of London after it emerged he had worked through the night several times in the days leading up to his death, and prompted Bank of America Merrill Lynch to launch a review.