Derek Pain: Progress of a sort as we are blessed with more info than ever

No Pain, No Gain

It could be argued that small shareholders have never had it so good. Although the bulk of the City still regards them as the (very) poor relations of the investment scene, they can obtain, thanks to the internet, more information about their shares than ever before.

In the bad old days, information was often in short supply. When I arrived in the City more than 50 years ago, newspapers were the main source of share prices and company news. By necessity they had to be selective and a great many companies – particularly small ones – were lucky to get a mention.

Another avenue was stockbrokers telephoning clients with news of developments, but they rarely bothered with the small player. And most communications direct from companies were by post. When strikes interfered with the leisurely delivery system, it was not unusual to find a company representative on the doorstep, particularly if a contested take over bid was under way.

I vaguely remember the company secretary of a now-forgotten concern called, if I recall correctly, Liverpool City Caterers, arriving at my home on a Sunday afternoon in the early 1970s when a strike had paralysed postal communications. He wanted my signature on a takeover document. I was happy to oblige, and after a glass or two he resumed his quest for LCC shareholders.

Since those dark, rather slow-moving news days, the information flow, both in quality and quantity, has improved immensely. The arrival of the internet has certainly transformed the lot of small shareholders. They can now log on to, say, the ADVFN web service, and at no cost obtain real time share prices and company news.

Should they insist – I do – postal links are still available. But many small shareholders are not computerised and unable to enjoy this information feast. In the main, they are those who are knocking on in years. They still rely on newspapers that continue to provide a vital service, various telephone links and what amounts to the modern day equivalent of the pigeon post. There is also an important service provided by the BBC, through its Ceefax text pages.

On Ceefax, there is a considerable range of company news and (via BBC1) around 2,500 share prices which are updated every 15 minutes. I suspect many find the BBC service invaluable. Besides covering top shares, it even offers the prices of obscure stocks such as Legendary Investments, priced at a mere 0.16p.

But this month's much-heralded switch to digital signals a BBC text cutback. The end of analogue TV means the BBC share service will be reduced to the top 350 shares, in effect the 100 shares of the benchmark Footsie index and those in the supporting FTSE 250 index. Out will go the vast majority of prices that are now displayed. The likes of Legendary Investments will no longer get a look-in.

Said the BBC in an email exchange: "We hope to offer the full service currently available on Ceefax if bandwidth allows."

I would not hold my breath for the old-fashioned share displays to be resumed in this multi-channelled digital age.

Another blow then to those who, by design or affordability, are not on the internet. Many companies no longer post interim statements and only send out, as they are still legally required, the yearly report. Those which post occasional information – such as take over developments – are dwindling by the month.

And, of course, telephone dealing with certificates is much more expensive than online trading. It is getting increasingly difficult for many computerless shareholders, particularly the elderly, to even remotely keep up with City developments in these days of what is almost a continuously updated information overload.

At least moves to dispense with yearly hardback reports and even the much-cherished paper share certificates have been abandoned but I suspect they will rear their ugly heads again in the not too distant future.

Spirit Pub Co, a no pain, no gain portfolio constituent, may, I think, survive the BBC carnage. Its shares have recently performed well.

Stockbroker Shore Capital remains a buyer and says that the group's strong recovery holds out hope that a dividend will be introduced. As I write, the shares are at a peak 62.5p, capitalising Spirit at £412m.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

    Market Risk & Control Manager

    Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

    SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

    £320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

    Head of Audit

    To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam