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The City of London’s glory days recalled as streets stay empty

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the city of londons glory days recalled as streets stay empty

David Buik has worked in the City of London since the 1960s and continues to do so, having worked with many of its famous brokers. He is currently a consultant for Aquis Exchange PLC.

In 1962 I started my career in the City of London as a trainee at Philip Hill Higginson Erlangers, a leading merchant bank of the day (to become Hill Samuel), having failed to trouble the examiners at A level twice, which precluded me from becoming a corporate lawyer, much to the chagrin of my impecunious father, who had sweated blood to send me to a decent school.

Samuel Montagu, J Henry Schroder Wagg, SG Warburg, Morgan Grenfell, Barings, and Lazard Brothers numbered amongst the dominant merchant banks at that time.

At that time there were about 400 stockbrokers – most of whom had five to ten employees.

The City of London in the 1960s looking west over Tower Bridge, centre, with the Tower of London to its right

The City of London in the 1960s looking west over Tower Bridge, centre, with the Tower of London to its right

The City of London in the 1960s looking west over Tower Bridge, centre, with the Tower of London to its right

A modern day view of London looking west over Tower Bridge. Skyscrapers and office buildings on both sides of the Thames have changed the skyline dramatically over recent decades

A modern day view of London looking west over Tower Bridge. Skyscrapers and office buildings on both sides of the Thames have changed the skyline dramatically over recent decades

A modern day view of London looking west over Tower Bridge. Skyscrapers and office buildings on both sides of the Thames have changed the skyline dramatically over recent decades

Even in those days, Cazenove & Co and Joseph Sebag were the most revered. Mullens & Co, Pember & Boyle, Phillips & Drew and W Greenwell & Co were the most celebrated gilt brokers and the two main jobbers were Ackroyd & Smithers and Wedd Durlacher.

There were about 75 trading banks in London. The main US banks with a presence were First National City Bank, Morgan Guaranty Trust, Continental Illinois, Manufacturers Hanover, Chemical Bank & First Chicago.

US investment banks had no presence and Deutsche Bank had not reached these shores.

The main European banks were Societe Generale, Comptoir Nationale D’Escompte de Paris and BW Blydenstein (ABN AMRO).

A rooftop view of London in the 1960s with the Houses of Parliament at the rear

A rooftop view of London in the 1960s with the Houses of Parliament at the rear

 A rooftop view of London in the 1960s with the Houses of Parliament at the rear

The global economy was just starting to get its act together; just 17 years after World War 11. In ’62, the Barbican was still a bombed site.

Construction on one of the towers of the Barbican Estate, in 1970, built on land cleared for development after World War 2 bombing

Construction on one of the towers of the Barbican Estate, in 1970, built on land cleared for development after World War 2 bombing

Construction on one of the towers of the Barbican Estate, in 1970, built on land cleared for development after World War 2 bombing

The FT, The Times and Telegraph printed ‘offer for sale’ pages, day after day for an exciting and varied array of new issues. It was money for old rope.

Stock markets started to boom so did the foreign exchange and money markets. 

An explosion of activity in the Euro Dollar deposit markets and foreign exchange trading triggered the explosion of close to three hundred trading banks having a presence in London by the end of the ‘70s, notwithstanding the influence of the London discount market and the growing presence of insurance and corporate law and accountancy.

It came as no surprise that entertaining and socialising, especially at lunch time with clients and colleagues was the staple daily diet, with serious drinking thrown in, in the evening, but there were very few dinners.

The main hostelries were the Jam Pot (Jamaica Coffee House), Simpson’s in Cornhill – what stewed cheese on rubbery toast, but it did not matter – The George & Vulture, again in Cornhill, the Green Man, off Cheapside), The Golden Fleece, in Queen Street, which served the best egg & anchovy sandwiches in the world, The Grill & Cheese, in Throgmorton Avenue. 

The City Circle, in Moorgate, and The Red Lion, in Watling Court, were very popular watering holes.

The Baron of Beef in Gutter Lane was an upmarket establishment, full of Slaughter & May, Linklaters, Cooper Bros, Warburg and Montagu attempting to put deals together.

My favourite lunchtime hostelry was Birch’s, in Angel Court (near the Stock Exchange), owned by the irascible but delightful Philip Putnam, an Old Harrovian who kept the happiest ship of inebriated stockbrokers and money brokers imaginable.

Traffic on Fleet Street in the 1970s with St Paul's Cathedral dominating the background

Traffic on Fleet Street in the 1970s with St Paul's Cathedral dominating the background

Traffic on Fleet Street in the 1970s with St Paul’s Cathedral dominating the background

At rush hour on  Tuesday morning, Liverpool Street station would usually be packed - but in recent weeks the concourse has been all but empty

At rush hour on  Tuesday morning, Liverpool Street station would usually be packed - but in recent weeks the concourse has been all but empty

At rush hour on  Tuesday morning, Liverpool Street station would usually be packed – but in recent weeks the concourse has been all but empty

For many years I remember Raymond Grumbar, of Grumbar and See, with his splendid RAF moustache (well waxed) coming to Birch’s at 12.15pm on the dot for two swift pink gins, before lunch.

An average lunch was two swift G&Ts, a prawn cocktail, rump steak chips and mushrooms, washed down with a bottle of Mouton Cadet, then a Grand Marnier – £5 for two people! Then toddle back to the office at about 3.45pm.

City veteran David Buik laments the quiet that has descended on London in lockdown

City veteran David Buik laments the quiet that has descended on London in lockdown

City veteran David Buik laments the quiet that has descended on London in lockdown

By that time, there was no such thing as a free meal. If a broker took you to lunch, you said thank you with a respectable sized deal

No one drank wine, unless eating. Too expensive! Large gins or pints of wallop. That was most people’s tipple.

My net take-home pay in the early ‘60s was £39.19s.6d. 

I lived at home and enjoyed a good life. The friends that were made in these social establishments were life-long. 

The camaraderie was deep. The alcohol consumed was excessive.  

It is a tragedy to see the City looking like a western movie with all roads leading to Boot Hill in Tombstone, Arizona.

I do not care how good technology is today. A return to work is surely essential. 

The City owes society some help as well as a debt of thanks. It needs to support the entertainment and food sector, or the economy could fall off a cliff.

Working from home has much to commend it with a better quality of family life, less stress from travel and the expense of it… however, it also has major disadvantages

I never thought I would ever experience such an astonishing change in culture. 

Learning to work from home for a significant majority of people in non-manufacturing business is a new lifestyle that is here to stay.

 It has much to commend it with a better quality of family life, less stress from travel and the expense of it.

However, it also has major disadvantages. It threatens to destroy a major part of the entertainment and hospitality sectors, conceivably putting as many as 2million people on the dole queue by the end of the year. 

Many of the hostelries in the City would go to the wall.

The view from the dome of St Paul's cathedral in the 1960s looking west along Ludgate Hill

The view from the dome of St Paul's cathedral in the 1960s looking west along Ludgate Hill

The view from the dome of St Paul’s cathedral in the 1960s looking west along Ludgate Hill

London's skyscrapers can be seen from high points in and outside the city, with the conical Gherkin one of the most eye-catching

London's skyscrapers can be seen from high points in and outside the city, with the conical Gherkin one of the most eye-catching

London’s skyscrapers can be seen from high points in and outside the city, with the conical Gherkin one of the most eye-catching

Social contact and interpersonal skills are greatly underrated attributes.

Schools can contribute to developing these skills. However, there is no substitute for gaining experience by dealing with people on a day-to-day basis, from assisting with their problems, negotiating deals and contracts to enjoying their successes.

Social contact and interpersonal skills are greatly underrated attributes… there is no substitute for gaining experience by dealing with people on a day-to-day basis

I have spent most of the last 58 years working in an environment that was Elysium to me – warts and all.

I so treasure those experiences and relationships, which I have always tried to nurture. I certainly would not trade them in for today’s agenda.

I am all for change, but these special nuggets of joy should continue to prevail. Society would be all the better for it. 

THIS IS MONEY PODCAST

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Woodford savers told they won’t get their cash back for ANOTHER year 

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woodford savers told they wont get their cash back for another year

Investors stuck in Neil Woodford’s doomed Equity Income Fund could be waiting at least another year to get their money back.

Savers who are locked in the fund were told in a letter that some of its assets may not be sold until mid to late 2021.

And while investors have lost at least £1billion since the fund was suspended last June, the big-name firms winding up the fund have raked in £15.5million of fees.

Saddled with losses: Equestrian fan Neil Woodford was a star fund manager before his empire collapsed last year

Saddled with losses: Equestrian fan Neil Woodford was a star fund manager before his empire collapsed last year

Saddled with losses: Equestrian fan Neil Woodford was a star fund manager before his empire collapsed last year

The Woodford Equity Income Fund was suspended in June 2019, and in October last year the decision was made to wind the fund up. 

Link Fund Solutions, the firm which had been overseeing the running of the fund, fired Woodford and appointed new managers to sell the assets and return the cash to savers.

Weary investors have been receiving their money back in dribs and drabs, but have watched on helplessly as the value of their remaining investment has dwindled.

There are still stakes in 17 different companies left in the fund to be sold, but Link estimates they are worth just £288million. 

Their value could fall even further if no buyer is willing to pay that price.

Ryan Hughes, head of active portfolios at AJ Bell, said the amounts paid to the new managers winding up the fund ‘will surely stick in the throat of all investors who have been waiting patiently to get some of their money back’.

Link’s managing director, Karl Midl, wrote to investors: ‘We would like to reassure you that we have taken all possible steps to protect investors’ interests in returning cash to you at the earliest opportunity.’

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CBI’s first ethnic minority president leads FTSE 350 diversity drive 

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cbis first ethnic minority president leads ftse 350 diversity drive

A new drive to increase the numbers of black, Asian and ethnic minority directors sitting on the boards of UK companies is being launched today.

The initiative is being spearheaded by Lord Bilimoria, the first ethnic minority president of employers’ organisation the CBI in its 55-year history.

It comes as the British-Indian peer, who was a staunch Remainer, says he had been subjected to ‘aggressive and open’ racism over Brexit.

Lord (Karan) Bilimoria, best known as the founder of Cobra beer, is the first ethnic minority president of employers' organisation the CBI in its 55-year history

Lord (Karan) Bilimoria, best known as the founder of Cobra beer, is the first ethnic minority president of employers' organisation the CBI in its 55-year history

Lord (Karan) Bilimoria, best known as the founder of Cobra beer, is the first ethnic minority president of employers’ organisation the CBI in its 55-year history

Raising the numbers of black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) bosses is one of Bilimoria’s top priorities at the CBI. 

The 58-year-old crossbencher, best known as the founder of Cobra beer, is modelling his campaign on the 30 Per Cent Club which has successfully battled to get more women into boardrooms.

Called ‘Change the Race Ratio’, it has set a target for at least one racially and ethnically diverse board member at every FTSE 100 company by the end of next year and at every FTSE 250 firm by 2024.

Signatories include Aviva, the insurance giant, US tech behemoth Microsoft, head hunter Russell Reynolds and law firm Linklaters.

Subscribers to the campaign commit themselves to transparent reporting on ethnic representation at senior levels and to revealing their ethnic pay gap by 2022.

Lord Bilimoria said he had begun work on his campaign long before the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the country in the summer.

'Change the Race Ratio', wants at least one racially and ethnically diverse board member at every FTSE 100 firm by the end of next year

'Change the Race Ratio', wants at least one racially and ethnically diverse board member at every FTSE 100 firm by the end of next year

‘Change the Race Ratio’, wants at least one racially and ethnically diverse board member at every FTSE 100 firm by the end of next year

He said the only discrimination he had ever suffered was around the time of the EU referendum and the acrimony that followed.

‘Through the Brexit days, I received some really, really bad racism,’ he said. ‘There were really aggressive people telling me to go back to where I came from and some much worse, so bad that I cannot even repeat it to you. Other than that I have never been affected personally.’

He added that this country had transformed dramatically in the past 40 years. ‘I came to the UK as a 19-year-old student from India in the 1980s and it is a very different country now,’ he said.

‘People warned me back then that, ‘You will never get to the top as a foreigner, there will be a glass ceiling’, and I’m afraid to say at that time, they were right.

‘Now it has totally changed. This country wouldn’t be the sixth largest economy in the world without the contribution of ethnic minorities.’ 

Firms with diverse boards outperformed those that did not, he claimed, adding: ‘The business case is well proven.’

On the question of how firms should address any historic links with the slave trade, such as pubs group Greene King or Lloyd’s of London, he said: ‘It is very important to be aware and open about your history but it is what you do today that matters.’

A review by industrialist Sir John Parker found fewer than 7 per cent of FTSE 350 directors are from BAME backgrounds.

Separately, a report by Baroness McGregor-Smith, a former boss of outsourcing firm Mitie, found that dismantling barriers in the workplace so that BAME workers can get ahead could boost the economy by £24billion a year.

The theory is that companies with diverse leadership teams are better able to understand and cater for their customers. It is also believed they are less likely to suffer mistakes made through ‘group think’ than those run solely by middle-aged, middle-class white men.

A government-backed drive to get more women on boards has hit its target of a third of FTSE 100 directors. That is up from less than 12.5 per cent a decade ago.

Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI’s first female director general, has championed ethnic pay reporting.

Ethnic pay reporting is likely to be modelled on the gender gap rules.

These require firms with more than 250 staff to calculate and publish the average salary and bonus figures for men and women. The gender statistics revealed that men are paid significantly more than women.

Evidence suggests BAME employees are paid substantially less well than their white British equivalents.

A study by the Resolution Foundation think tank found they are missing out on £3.2billion a year of pay compared with white colleagues.

The foundation revealed the pay gap was as high as 17 per cent for black male graduates.

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Canadians in £3bn hostile bid for ‘deeply troubled G4S’

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G4S has come under fire from a Canadian rival mounting a £3billion hostile takeover bid.

In its latest salvo, Garda World described the British security services group as a ‘deeply troubled company’ which needs fresh management to deal with ‘scandals, crises and lawsuits’.

The private equity-backed firm stuck with its offer of 190p per share, despite the approach being unanimously rejected by the G4S board just over two weeks ago.

Garda World described G4S as a 'deeply troubled company' which needs fresh management to deal with 'scandals, crises and lawsuits'

Garda World described G4S as a 'deeply troubled company' which needs fresh management to deal with 'scandals, crises and lawsuits'

Garda World described G4S as a ‘deeply troubled company’ which needs fresh management to deal with ‘scandals, crises and lawsuits’

G4S yesterday urged investors to ‘take absolutely no action in relation to the unattractive and opportunistic offer’ and described its timing during the pandemic as ‘highly opportunistic’.

But investors piled in, sending shares in the FTSE 250 firm surging above £2 for the first time since February, before the Covid-19 crisis triggered a rout on global stockmarkets. 

They are now up 37 per cent since news of the £3billion takeover bid emerged just over a fortnight ago.

In the coming days Garda World will start contacting G4S shareholders, which include fund manager Schroders and New York investment firm Sachem Head Capital Management.

A key part of its pitch will include accusations that G4S bosses have ‘destroyed nearly £1billion of shareholder value’ over the last seven years, spending hundreds of millions of pounds on restructuring programmes without managing to improve its margins.

But it will also warn that G4S ‘remains dogged by scandals, crises and lawsuits’ which could lead to ‘further claims, provisions and contingent liabilities’.

And G4S is hampered by a £276million funding shortfall in its pension fund, Garda World said.

The firm’s boss Stephan Cretier said: ‘G4S is a deeply troubled business which needs a committed owner-operator team that understands the sector and has a definitive and comprehensive plan. 

‘Stakeholders can take no confidence in the promises of a senior management team that has been in place for seven years and has not delivered.’

He added that the ‘G4S board has behaved in a cavalier way by rejecting our potential offer out of hand’. 

The 190p a share offer amounts to a 31 per cent premium on the 145p that shares had been trading at just before the offer was initially made last month. 

David Buik, a veteran city commentator and consultant at Aquis Exchange, said: ‘From a management perspective heading all the way back to the London Olympics in 2012, G4S has been a shambles. 

Garda World are prepared to pay a reasonable premium for it. I’d be very surprised if shareholders don’t go for it.’

The Montreal-based firm – which is 51 per cent backed by London-based private equity giant BC Partners – said the deal would be funded with equity from BC Partners and loans from three banks. It has made several attempts to engage with the G4S board over the past three months.

The firm also made an approach last year but walked away without making an offer.

G4S employs around 533,000 people in more than 80 countries, including 25,000 in the UK.

It runs security and cash handling services, while also managing Covid test centres around the UK, and four prisons.

But it has been mired in scandal in recent years, such as failing to provide enough staff for the London 2012 Olympics.

G4S also landed itself in hot water after it emerged it had been overcharging taxpayers for tagging criminals, some of whom were dead or back in prison.

Over the summer it announced plans to cut 1,150 jobs, mainly in its cash handling business amid a move to online banking and digital payments.

Garda World employs more than 102,000 globally. It guards British embassies in places such as Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Somalia.

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