Ambitious bank clerk, Nick Leeson (Ewan McGregor) is determined to make it big in life and gets this opportunity when his employers, the great British bank 'Barings', send him to Jakarta to fix a problem that no-one else will do.
When in Jakarta Nick meets Lisa (Anna Friel) who he soon marries her. Soon the bank offer Nick the task of setting up their Future Options Trading Operation in Singapore. Unfortunately for them, to save on money, the bank put Nick in charge of floor trading and back office facilities and tell him to employ a team of highly inexperienced staff (again to save pennies).
During his first year he makes huge profits for the bank and on the face of it seemed to be a huge success. However to do this he illegally broke trading rules and secretly covered up huge losses but the bank, unaware of this, gave him more freedom and money and continued not to keep a check on his activities.
Nick soon starts to make losses again and yet again tries to trade his way out of the situation but this time he isn't as lucky and manages to get unstuck as his illegal trading generates even bigger losses.
Meanwhile Lisa has fallen pregnant and when she miscarries Nick loses control and starts gambling uncontrollably with other people's money, leading to a complete financial meltdown and the downfall of the oldest bank in England.