Simon English: A tough old game for stockbrokers

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The Independent Online

City stockbrokers are struggling horribly. There's not much trade, and a jobs shake-out, perhaps more brutal than even they expect, is coming soon. Lots of the small firms on the edge of EC2, the ones with names that sound a bit to the stock punter in Ealing Broadway like they might be big (but that are not), have long looked like falling off the ledge.

Stick with us, the bosses say, we shall be ok. They admit they need to raise money, but say this won't be a problem. We are stockbrokers, they might argue, raising money is (part of) what we do.

The thing is, it's very difficult for almost anyone to raise money at the moment. Until the eurozone crisis is resolved, not many people want to take a punt – this is a problem for the brokers, both for their business and their funding.

What's telling is that few of the staff are willing to back the stock-broking houses with their own money, something they certainly would do if they thought the assets they own (the sort of thing they are paid to measure) had long-term value.

Perhaps these firms are presently like football clubs as far as owners are concerned: trophy assets, but not much else. No footballer has ever said: "I believe in this business. Pay me in shares."

When Robin van Persie joined Manchester United, it wasn't a clear part of his contract that he must be given stock in Man U's recent float. Given what has happened to the shares since that float, it seems that RVP and the stockbrokers have both called it right.