Money broking is an arcane field not noted for its commitment to training schemes. Like many other parts of the City, the emphasis is very much on the "sitting next to Nellie" side of things.

But last week, 30 members of the firm Prebon Yamane attended a special ceremony at the Armourers' Hall in the City where the Bank of England's executive director of monetary operations, Ian Plenderleith, presented them with broking diplomas.

The event is significant because, says Prebon, this is the first time a firm in the London market has had its programme accredited by an independent academic institution.

Prebon is a London-based group of companies providing brokerage services for institutions around the world in foreign exchange, money, derivatives, securities, energy and emerging markets. With its affiliates, it employs 1,200 brokers in 25 international offices, though London - which has nearly 400 brokers - is by far the largest operation.

It decided to take training seriously, not out of altruism, but because it made strong commercial sense. With training very much based on the job, the firm's managers felt that it had developed a way of adding value to what they offered customers. David Hayes, director of training, explained: "We saw training as a way of improving the quality of staff and differentiating ourselves from the competition."

The 30 successful candidates of the diploma programme - backed by London University's Birkbeck College, which has a longstanding reputation for teaching in the financial markets - were required to complete approximately 250 hours of formal study, including home reading and study and examinations.

The firm is so pleased with the development that it has made going through the course a requirement for all new recruits that have no previous experience of the market. It is also considering ways in which it can be adapted for its other offices. "It is a continual rolling programme," Mr Hayes added.

Future students wishing to obtain a diploma will have to go through between four and nine months of study, depending on whether they are graduates. The syllabus, delivered by Prebon's in-house training department, covers a variety of aspects of the financial markets in general - and money broking in particular - as well as clients' operations and needs. The objective is to develop practical skills at the same time as introducing participants to the principles of the markets in which they operate.

Welcoming the event, Garry Pithers, deputy managing director of Prebon Yamane's London office, said the firm had always believed that good staff training could make a difference to the service provided to customers or clients.

"For the last six years, we have been the only moneybroking company to have a full-time training department. We are extremely proud of them, and the work that they have done to achieve recognition from such a prestigious academic institution. They are a credit to the firm."

Indeed, the training department has proved so effective that it has offered tuition in specific areas to clients such as Royal Bank of Canada, Citibank and NatWest Global Markets, which use it as an intermediary in the wholesale money markets.