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4 Trading Lessons from HBO Hit Series Succession

July 6, 2023

If you haven’t started on the recently concluded HBO hit series Succession, you might come in expecting to hate it. Centred around the fictional Roy family, the show tracks three greedy siblings—Kendall, Roman, and Shiv—and their attempts to wrest control of the family business.

With its gritty premise and edgy, morally grey characters, we wouldn’t blame you for expecting Succession to be just another sad, angry show about ethically decrepit people. In some ways, that’s exactly what it is, but Succession is a lot more charming than one might pre-judge it to be.

It’s a captivating show that keeps you fully invested in the Roy siblings and how they navigate the cruel world of billion-dollar business and the sometimes more cruel world of their own family.

Yet, amid all the darkness presented in the show, there are some real lessons to learn from the Roy family.

The Roy siblings exist in a cutthroat, dog-eat-dog world of big business, and the way they manoeuvre the ruthless corporate landscape can teach you a lot about how to navigate the equally unforgiving world of trading.

While you don’t need to stoop to the level of some of the more reprehensible moments of the Roys, you can definitely learn valuable lessons that will help you become the best trader you can be.

Here are four of the very best:

(Spoilers ahead, obviously!)

Lesson #1: Adapting To Change

If there’s anything that we can learn from the growth or lack thereof of the main character, Kendall Roy, it’s the importance of adapting to change.

In the very first episode of the show, Kendall gets surprised that his father, Logan Roy, has decided to backtrack on his decision to hand Waystar Royco, the family business, over to Kendall. This naturally shocks and upsets Kendall, but his reaction is precisely why Logan chose not to hand the reins to him—the insecure and indecisive Kendall simply has trouble adapting.

It’s something pointed out to his face by his brother-in-law Tom, who remarks that Kendall—unlike his father Logan—has consistently gotten screwed over and allowed himself to be bullied. It’s a tragic theme that follows Kendall throughout all of his failed takeovers of the company, until his ultimate tragedy at the end of the show.

In being a trader, it would be good to learn from the mistakes of Kendall and be adaptable instead. New market conditions show up seemingly out of nowhere, with circumstances changing without a moment’s notice.

That’s why it’s useful to always be on your feet and, unlike Kendall, understand your outs if things don’t go your way. When you have this skill, and have the decisiveness to act even in uncomfortable situations, trading through tough conditions can become a cakewalk.

Lesson #2: Taking Calculated Risks

Succession’s patriarch Logan Roy might seem like a hard-nosed, old-school kind of businessman whose ways simply don’t work anymore. But this couldn’t be further from the truth! 

In actuality, Logan, who built Waystar Royco from the ground up, takes many risks. It’s just that they’re calculated ones. While Logan isn’t immediately swayed by the shiny new world of tech startups, he is demonstrably willing to take risks, like when he attempted to acquire Waystar Royco’s longtime rival conglomerate PGM.

As a trader, this might seem counterintuitive. You might be the type that’s more bullish on adopting new technology and new opportunities early, and that’s a totally valid and profitable way to think. At the same time, Logan Roy shows that there’s value in being patient and understanding his own threshold of risk.

Besides, regardless of if you’re trading newer assets, or sticking to your tried and true methods, discerning your level of risk is a crucial part of any strategy. Knowing your strategy and sticking to it will help you properly optimise profits and minimise the losses you could have incurred if you were less careful about dealing with risk.

Lesson #3: Staying Emotionally Intelligent

The family dynamics of the Roy family are intricate, to say the least. Anyone who’s worked in any kind of business knows how difficult it is to separate business relationships from personal relationships, especially when family is involved. Both family relationships and business relationships can lead to a lot of animosity—all the more so when you combine those two parts together.

In the case of the Roys, sibling rivalry is the crux of the show. At times, the Roy siblings have true moments of looking out for each other, like when Kendall stands up for Roman after Logan slaps Roman. Other times, you get Shiv throwing Kendall under the bus when it matters most.

While we hope your trading career doesn’t involve dealing with a difficult family like the Roys, there is something all of us can learn from their tumultuous family life—that we need to stay emotionally intelligent.

There are going to be many frustrating days as a trader, where you feel like you can’t make the right decisions no matter what you do. But staying the course and not letting the intensity of the situation affect your decision-making is exactly how to be a successful trader in the long term.

Lesson #4: The Power Of Networking

For the last lesson, let’s take a look at the ultimate winners of Succession—the newly named CEO of Waystar Royco, Tom Wambsgans, and his right-hand man Greg Hirsch.

Tom and Greg come from similar backgrounds, with Tom coming from a no-name family in Minnesota, while Greg comes from the estranged side of the Roy family. Each of them starts at the foot of the Roy family royalty and ends the series coming out on top—all thanks to their ability to play the game right.

Tom starts the series doing whatever he can to earn Logan’s respect and eventually does after he willingly sacrifices himself to potentially go to prison. Eventually, Tom has earned himself enough esteem that he can switch allegiances to the eventual owner of the company, Lukas Mattsson.

Meanwhile, Greg climbs the ladder in a slightly different way, consistently making himself available for others and finding angles to play all sides of the family dispute.

What we can learn from these two crafty characters is that networking is one of the most important skills someone can possess in the world of business and also in the world of trading.

As a trader, you’ll benefit greatly from building a strong network, both in terms of opportunities gained and the potential for acquiring new knowledge. By utilising these connections well, you too can be like Tom and Greg and succeed in a ruthless world, even if you start as an outsider.

Final Words

While the Roys may not be the perfect role models, their strategies and tactics provide valuable insights into the world of high-stakes trading. In Logan’s words: “Everything, everywhere, is always moving. Forever”. In a financial landscape defined by constant change, we hope these four lessons will help you pave your own path to success and perhaps build an empire of your own someday.

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