Derek Pain: Stockbroker wanted - small investors are being excluded


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The Independent Online

I need a stockbroker. In another blow to traditional shareholders, the firm I have dealt with for a number of years has decided to kill off certificated trading.

Early next month, the stockbroking arm of the banking behemoth Barclays will drop paper share certificates.

I have always regarded myself as a small, long-term investor, dealing maybe half a dozen times a year.

So at £25 a deal, Barclays will not miss me. But I resent the inconsideration that has forced me to seek another stockbroker.My first broker was Hichens Harrison in the 1950s when the City was much more tolerant of small investors without the internet.

There is little doubt that while playing lip service to small online shareholders, the City is out to eliminate traditional investors who demand the satisfaction of share certificates, entitling them to take their rightful place on a company's share register.

Online shareholders are more likely to be lumped into nominee accounts that ignore a shareholder's basic rights. The City – and quoted companies – love the internet because it cuts expenses dramatically: no printing or posting costs; just electronic messages.

Any investor without a computer is in danger of isolation. I have not heard of shareholders suffering from computer glitches but it can only be a matter of time before an explosion of investor outrage occurs.

As I explained last month, the ever-interfering European Union is also knifing traditional investors. It intends to end the basic rights of many shareholders by demanding that no more certificates are issued after 2023; existing ones will be killed off two years later. No thought, of course, for the plight of old-fashioned shareholders.

I am not against technological progress but the way small shareholders, both internet and traditional, are now treated is a disgrace.

A famous City editor of yesteryear, Patrick Hutber of The Sunday Telegraph, was fond of saying "improvement means deterioration". Considering the role of many investors in this high-powered age, he must have foreseen the internet.

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