Derek Pain: The old City: sexist, cosy, easy - but certainly not a cesspit
Friday 08 August 2014
When I started chronicling the behaviour of the City in the 1950s I felt there was something of a gentlemen's club about the place. It was cosy and male-dominated. Today, in contrast, the word cesspit is often used to describe what is still Europe's premier financial centre.
I am not suggesting that scandals were unknown in those distant days. Among those to hit the headlines were non-existent gold mines and a number of financial upheavals, which occurred – thankfully – not too frequently. Of course in the more free and easy days that then existed there was every chance that underhand escapades were not even noticed. Many ploys that are now offences, such as insider trading, were not only tolerated but encouraged. I recall one cabinet minister referring to the "games gentlemen play in the City".
So many activities accepted then have since been banned. Gradually the City became more transparent. The Takeover Panel was established, the Stock Exchange tightened rules and the male-only club was breached when women were allowed on to what was then the Stock Exchange floor where most business was conducted.
Merchant and high-street banks, stockbrokers and jobbers were separate institutions, although there was probably some integration.
The City drifted on, embracing the occasional scandal, and giving up much but not all of its cosiness. Then in 1986 came the "big bang" which revolutionised trading. It occurred a few weeks after The Independent was born. Regulations that had existed from time immemorial were abolished, among them fixed commissions, the distinction between brokers and jobbers, and the replacement of open-cry on the floor of the Stock Exchange by electronic trading. Quickly the old order disappeared. Long-established brokers and jobbers were absorbed by big financial institutions, with many falling to foreign groups.
Amid the "big bang" excitement the seeds were, I believe, sown that have led to the "cesspit" cry heard today. Before 1986 the high-street banks were not noted for excruciating behaviour. Perhaps some of the fringe banks were, but certainly not the respectable Mr Mainwaring branch networks.
Yet these days the banks and other financial institutions are plagued by a multitude of major scandals such as payment protection insurance, allegedly fiddling foreign exchange and interest rates, and secret share trading. Such misdeeds are costing a fortune in fines and compensation. I expect there could be other yet undetected disasters.
And, of course, bankers, with more than a little help from politicians, were largely responsible for the financial crisis that engulfed the world and from which many countries are still suffering.
No wonder there are calls for prosecutions. After all, the culprits seem to have got off scot-free.
Yet I wonder if the collective financial scandals would have occurred in the old days. "Big bang" and the use (or misuse) of computers played a large part in what looked like the near-destruction of the financial system and the accompanying scandals. I suppose technology is to be welcome, but it creates havoc in the wrong hands. And it is not only the financial sector that is exposed to misuse.
Call me an old fuddy-duddy but I preferred the days when brokers were brokers, jobbers stuck to wholesaling shares, and bankers were untainted. The City was then a much more leisurely place. There was the odd crook around, but in those far-off days when I started writing the world was a much more simple place. Technology has produced many benefits, but it has much to answer for.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts
Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested
George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios
Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?
Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets
Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination
I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title
Mark Dampier: Woodford’s young companies could be the stars of the future
Money Insider: Help to Buy must be boosted by building
Weekly Money: Round-up of the personal finance stories you may have missed 13-17 October
The opera singer, the broadband delay and why customers aren’t divas if they expect a good service
How to start your own internet business
- 1 Indian footballer Peter Biaksangzuala dies after injuring spine doing somersault celebration
- 2 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 3 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Lynda Bellingham dead: Loose Women presenter dies after battle with colon cancer
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver allegedly kicks gay couple off for kissing
iJobs Money & Business
£18 - 23k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Customer Service Executiv...
£60 - 65k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a ASP.NET Web Developer / ....
£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...
£27000 - £32000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large charity ...
Day In a Page
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village