Smith New Court, the City's leading independent securities house, has sacked 14 employees including three smaller company market-makers, six corporate finance specialists and three UK agency salesmen.
Rival stockbrokers said they were shocked by the sacking of three well known and respected smaller company market-makers - David "Windy" Miller, Ian Barrett and David Silver.
The last year has been tough for small company stockbroking, but participants say volumes have picked up in recent weeks.
One competitor said: "The last few days have been the busiest we've had for months. These are a nice bunch of blokes, good at what they do. From the market's point of view, it's a strange decision."
Smith New Court played down the move as "fine-tuning the business".
Paul Roy, the chief executive, said: "There is no change of policy or philosophy on how we do the business. We are not pulling out of any stocks. We are changing the personnel on our smaller companies side to do the business a bit differently."
Two years ago both SG Warburg and UBS pulled out of smaller companies. Smith took that as an opportunity to increase its smaller broking operations.
Smith's smaller company market-making team, which was six-strong before the sackings, will be rebuilt around Geoff Bunton, Mr Roy said. This was a small move considering that Smiths had 1,700 people worldwide, he added. Just a week ago Smiths recruited 11 analysts from Barings in Japan.
Smith's shares yesterday finished 1p down at 453p.