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The Independent Culture
Age: 34

History: Originally set up as the research arm of Hoare & Co in 1964, Datastream began providing financial information by teletype machine in 1966, and established its first international office in Rotterdam eight years later. ICV, a provider of TOPIC 3, a real-time equity and news service for the UK stock market, was founded in 1981 by Christopher Sharples. He recruited David Taylor, at the time working for IBM, as second-in-command after Taylor convinced him to buy two electronic typewriters. In 1996, Primark Corporation, owners of Datastream, bought ICV and the companies merged.

Address: The company has three sites in central London: in City Road, Mark Square and College Hill, off Cannon Street. It also has a software development centre in Woking, and operates in 30 countries.

Ambience: A mix of City style - fast-paced, and competitive - with a more relaxed, IT-driven environment. "Appropriate" dress sense is stressed; suits for the City, casual dress for technical staff. Promotion is merit- based, with no graduate "conveyor belt".

Vital statistics: Despite having 30 offices internationally, 85 per cent of the company's 1,200 staff are in the UK. Turnover last year for Primark was $835m (pounds 510m), and profit was $67m. Datastream's database contains 1.5 billion items, 5 million of which are updated daily. Three-quarters of UK market makers use the database to trade UK equities.

Lifestyle: Work hard, play hard. Staff are expected to put in the necessary hours, even at weekends, to meet deadlines. The company promotes a young, positive environment; 75 per cent of employees are under 35.

Easy to get into? Competition is keen. Of 700 graduate applications last year, 12 candidates were taken on. Skilled IT graduates are particularly in demand, as are graduates with work experience. The company looks for "good raw material" in employees.

Glittering alumni: Sir Colin Southgate, formerly of EMI and now at the Royal Opera House, was Datastream's director in the 1970s. Another ex- employee is Richard Anderson, now finance director of The Prince's Trust.

Pay: Sales and customer support staff start on around pounds 14,000, but IT salaries begin at pounds 17,000. Successful graduates can expect to progress to a managerial or team leader role, earning around pounds 25,000 to pounds 30,000, within five years. The company stresses there is no fast track; all employees compete on merit.

Training: IT employees are put through 12 months of training, spending time getting to know the product and taking off-site instruction on IT languages, platforms and operating systems. Sales staff may be put through in-house courses in telephone technique, assertiveness and management.

Canteen: None. The company decided to shut its canteens down because of low usage. Staff bring in their own sandwiches.

Who's the boss? David Taylor is chief executive, working with his old boss Christopher Sharples, now Datastream/ICV chairman.

Rachelle Thackray