Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, who was born 90 years ago today, is celebrated as a symbol of continuity in a rapidly changing world. In her lifetime, for example, split-second trading in securities by computers has replaced open outcry dealing by bowler-hatted humans. But it is surprising how much a modern City of London type would recognise if taken back in time.
On April 21 1926, financial types were worried by trade barriers, the weakness of the UK steel industry and executive pay. That all sounds familiar, albeit that a controversial bonus pool at the Dunlop Rubber Company amounted to just ￡18,000. Investors might not have had a contentious referendum on EU membership to contend with. But a general strike broke out the following month.
Contemporary accounts give the lie to the notion that London’s Square Mile was any more representative of British business in the past than it is now. There was hectic trading in foreign securities, ranging from sovereign bonds to corporate equity. The difference was that overseas companies were often colonial in character, as suggested by names such as Glenshiel Rubber Estates.
A Financial Times from April 21 1926 shows which business franchises have the longest shelf lives. Banks stand out. Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds were all on a list of big lenders, alongside many that have disappeared through amalgamation and name changes. Optimism is needed to imagine that the trio are now under serious pressure from challenger banks, as politicians hope.
Like Her Majesty, big natural resource companies have also withstood the test of time. Oil company Royal Dutch is listed alongside miners such as Anglo American and Rio Tinto. Addictive substances bestow enduring market power too. British American Tobacco and Imperial have outlived many of their customers.
Outside banking, natural resources and tobacco, only a smattering of names are recognisable. They include media group Daily Mail Trust, soap company Lever Brothers (which became Unilever) and engineer Rolls-Royce.
The dominant investment banks would have been familiar to a Victorian and would remain so for another 60 to 70 years. They included Barings, Cazenove and Hambros, brands that now belong to other organisations. Schroders lives on as a large, independent fund manager. Rothschild and Lazard continue to plough their furrows today.
The City milieu of the 1920s was little changed from Victorian times. Automation, in the form of typewriters and adding machines, had yet to penetrate most counting houses. Calculation and documentation was mostly manual.
Women were entering the workforce in increasing numbers as typists, according to historian David Kynaston. But critics would say their progress into senior roles since then has been lamentably slow.
The Queen opened London Stock Exchange buildings in 1972 and 2004, and in 2008 memorably asked why economists failed to predict the credit crunch during a visit to the London School of Economics. But her relations with the City have been dutiful rather than close.
It cuts both ways. When she was born, the FT recorded the news in two sentences. One of these, by way of establishing newsworthiness, pointed out that her uncle was a stockbroker.
1926年4月21日，金融业人士担心的是贸易壁垒、英国钢铁业的衰弱及高管的薪酬问题。所有这些听起来都如此熟悉，尽管那时邓洛普橡胶公司(Dunlop Rubber Company)有争议的奖金池总共也只有1.8万英镑。投资者也许没有为了是否留在欧盟(EU)的有争议公投争论不休。然而之后一个月就爆发了一场全面罢工。
当时的记载显示，过去的伦敦金融城并不能比现在更好地代表英国事务。那时候这里也在繁忙地交易外国证券，从主权债券到公司股权。不同之处在于，当时的海外企业往往是殖民性质的，这从格伦希尔橡胶园(Glenshiel Rubber Estates)之类的名称上就可以看出来。
与女王陛下类似，大型自然资源企业也经受住了时间的考验。荷兰皇家(Royal Dutch)石油公司赫然在列，一同在列的还有英美资源集团(Anglo American)和力拓(Rio Tinto)等矿商。致瘾类物质也会带来持久的市场影响力。英美烟草(British American Tobacco)和帝国烟草(Imperial)都比它们的许多客户活得长。
在银行业、自然资源和烟草业以外，可以认出的企业名字只有寥寥几个。其中包括媒体集团每日邮报信托(Daily Mail Trust)、后来成为联合利华(Unilever)的肥皂企业利华兄弟(Lever Brothers)以及工程公司罗尔斯?罗伊斯(Rolls-Royce)。
女王分别在1972年和2004年主持过伦敦证券交易所(London Stock Exchange)大楼的揭幕式。在2008年参观伦敦政治经济学院(London School of Economics)时，女王还曾令人难忘地问道为什么经济学家未能预测到信贷紧缩。不过，她对伦敦金融城一直是例行公事，并不亲近。