City traders, economists and commentators praised Margaret Thatcher today for reforming London’s financial centre and turning it into an engine of the economy and the envy of the world.
While outsiders often saw Big Bang — the 1986 liberalisation of City working practices and the introduction of cut-throat competition — as leading to the worst excesses of the yuppie generation, City insiders insist the move benefited everyone in the country.
Terry Smith of broker Tullet Prebon said of the Big Bang reforms: “Whatever faults they may have had, they changed the way the City works and not just in the equity business. London became more internationally competitive and from that change sprang London’s place as the centre of the world financial markets. Without them I doubt there would be a Canary Wharf, the hedge funds in the West End or the massive presence of American and European banks.”
He added of her legacy: “She moved us nearer to the American enterprise culture in which someone making money through their own efforts was something to emulate not something to envy.”
Veteran City commentator David Buik said: “To me and to most middle-class/working class lads and lasses like me Lady T was an icon — after my family, easily the most influential person in my life. If pictures of my family were not parked by my bed, Baroness Thatcher’s photo would take pride of place.”
Buik said that as well as Big Bang, abolishing exchange controls in 1981 had helped make London the leading financial centre in the world.
He says: “Many people erroneously feel that the city was the only part of the economy to benefit. This is arrant nonsense. The whole country improved out of recognition. It wasn’t until 2000 that regulation and controls proved hopelessly inadequate.”
Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight said: “While Thatcher was a highly divisive politician, she was certainly a friend to the financial sector and to the City.”
Adrian Lowcock of Hargreaves Lansdown said the launch of the Personal Equity Plan (PEP), the forerunner of the ISA, helped encourage individual share ownership. He said: “This complemented her policy of privatisation, which was a crucial ingredient of Thatcherism.”