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Finance and the City
Finance and the City Pictures
The City of London. Wall Street. Homes to some of the hardest-working and deserving deserving individuals of our time. And then again.....
Today's City would be unrecognisable - both in architectural and business terms - to a visitor from even just 25 years ago and our finance pictures more than reflect that. On 27th October 1985 Big Bang changed the face of The Stock Exchange. Maggie Thatcher's Conservative government forced that venerable institution to introduce radical, liberalising reforms. Strange, isn't it, that some of the leading advocates of free markets resist when it is suggested that such principles should apply to their own, special case?
Foreign exchange controls had already been removed and London had firmly established itself as the leading centre for currency and eurodollar trading. With Big Bang share trading was liberalised and the leisurely world of partnerships (see 'The City firm who got an order' - our favourite cartoon), fixed commissions, trading on the market floor, brokers and jobbers was transformed into the dynamic, electronic-trading environment we know today. Bonuses don't seem to have fallen much, though!
The City's original growth and pre-eminent position came of course from the strength of the British economy, Empire and the Industrial Revolution. The commerce these generated led to the creation of exchanges both for commodities (such as the Corn Exchange and the London Metal Exchange (LME)) and services (the Baltic Exchange for shipping, Lloyd's of London for insurance). Britain's declining status as a world economic power and the reduced use of Sterling as a reserve currency in the face of growing US economic might and the Dollar meant post-War comparative decline and more parochial activity. The Conservatives' liberalisation and the subsequent Labour government's continued support have enhanced the City's position as the major European financial market and made it a British success story of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Of course the financial world has its fair share (perhaps more) of scandal. In the UK we have had insider trading, the Lloyd's of London crisis and, more recently, pensions mis-selling. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 led to economic grief for many and contributed to the growth of fascism in Europe, but we are more interested in its contribution to popular culture and movie posters. By the way, that story of Wall Street brokers throwing themselves off buildings is an urban myth. See the discussion in The Great Crash 1929 by J K Galbraith - seldom has a practitioner of the dismal science written so pithily.