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Into the 20th Century

The second part of the History of Charles Stanley

Into the new century

As the business of Charles Stanley grew it became recognised as a separate operation and in 1852 the name Charles Stanley first appeared as an independent member firm of the London Stock Exchange.

In this the second part of the History of Charles Stanley we follow the firm through its steady growth into the 20th Century to the building of a modern firm with the foundations to compete in the 21st Century.

Charles Stanley's 70th birthday, in 1884, coincided with the building of the new market, and he now began to come less often to the office. He moved from Bayswater to distant Datchet, commuting infrequently to Waterloo. He died in January 1897 at the age of 83. To his widow, Anne, he left the substantial sum of £14,156.

Charles' elder son, Charles Herbert, now had sons of his own: Ronald and Evelyn, born in 1890 and 1893 respectively. Ronald was brought up in the expectation of becoming senior partner, joined the firm at the first opportunity, and was already a partner at the outbreak of the Great War. Evelyn's interests lay elsewhere. He was a motor racing enthusiast and spent much of his time abroad. Their father kept the photographs of both his sons on his desk, but it was Ronald who never returned. He survived the war, as a captain in the newly created RAF, only to die, still on service, in the great flu epidemic of 1919. His name appears on the Stock Exchange War Memorial.

The Stock Market was virtually suspended for the four years of war. In the pandemonium of Armistice Day, Charles Herbert Stanley's youngest child, Joan, aged 19, was smuggled into the market dressed in a frock coat and top hat. She is believed to be the first woman ever to walk on the Stock Exchange floor.

The Stanley brothers, Charles Herbert and Arthur John, had been great tennis enthusiasts, and Charles had played at Wimbledon. The firm came to a standstill each year in Wimbledon fortnight, except for the distribution of tickets for the tournament.

The partners' keen judgement served them well through the traumas of the 1920s, the expansion of the Stock Exchange, the General Strike and the Crash. Both brothers became in turn the 'Father of the House' - the longest-serving Members in the Stock Exchange. Charles Herbert, a flamboyant market figure, died in July 1931 at the age of 79; it now became imperative that his son Evelyn be recalled from Paris to join the partnership. This, with much reluctance, he agreed to do. Arthur John was a bachelor, now 78, and his nephew Evelyn was the last of the line.

To bolster the business, in 1935 a new partner was introduced, Harold Seymour Howard, a financier, politician and confidante of Lloyd George. He had arrived just in time. For Arthur John Stanley died in July 1935. It was in the middle of England's disastrous Test Series against South Africa; and, perhaps a shadow of things to come, 'Mr Arthur' in his final illness was convinced that Hitler had sabotaged the pitch.

The second part of the History of Charles Stanley

A change at the helm

Evelyn Stanley was now senior partner and for a while, under the threat of impending war, the firm marked time. Seymour Howard devoted much of his energy to his political career, but in 1936 he was joined in the firm by his son Edward, newly down from Oxford. Business was thin, and almost stuttered to a halt during the six years of war. Both of the Howards were called away - Seymour to serve on the Cabinet Committee on Allied Supplies, and Edward to the RAF. But even then a straw in the wind gave a hint of things to come.

In 1942 the firm acquired the small business of Davison and Jones, and the list of partners began to expand. With the return of peace there was a brief period of general restructuring of Stock Exchange companies; in 1948 came another acquisition, part of Middleton & Co; and in 1952 the firm acquired Sewell, Wilson & Co.

Evelyn Stanley was winding down his role, and it was decided in 1947 that Seymour Howard should become senior partner. He had been Sheriff of the City of London in 1944/45; now it was as senior partner of the firm that he served as Lord Mayor of London, in 1954/55. One of the highlights of his year was an official visit to the Soviet Union; here he was the first Western citizen to broadcast on Russian television. He had done business with Lenin in the 1920s and was a member of the Government mission to Stalin in 1938, sent in the vain hope of heading off a pact with Hitler. How fitting then, that the City's first formal delegation to Russia, to meet Mr Khrushchev, should be headed by Seymour Howard.

Evelyn Stanley suffered a serious motor accident in 1949, and took this opportunity to retire altogether from the Stock Exchange. He had long harboured the wish to be a fruit farmer, and now bought some land in Kent and settled there. He had no sons to follow him into the business; and so, after more than a century and a half, the Stanley's association with stockbroking finally drew to a close.

In 1934 the firm had moved westwards along Cornhill, from 29 to No 1 on the corner by the Mansion House. As the firm steadily grew it needed larger premises, and now moved again, in 1953, to 6 Throgmorton Street. Here it continued its expansion, most notably when it was joined in 1956 by J S Moyle, from Hirsch Stokes, who was to build up the firm's investment department. By 1960 the firm needed larger premises again; this coincided with the plans of the landlord, the Stock Exchange itself, to start development of the new market floor. And so on January 1st 1961 Charles Stanley & Co moved to the 'fringes' of the City - to 18 Finsbury Circus.

The second part of the History of Charles Stanley

A growing business

The 1960s were years of continuing expansion. A steady growth in the client base was matched by occasional small acquisitions; but in 1967, Gastrell & Co joined Charles Stanley, and the business nearly doubled in size.

1967 saw other changes too. Sir Seymour Howard, who had been made a baronet in 1955, remained senior partner until his death at the beginning of the year. The baton now passed to his son, Sir Edward Howard, and later in the same year Sir Edward's son David joined the firm from Oxford.

The extraordinary economic conditions of 1973-75 produced a rapid burst of consolidation amongst stockbroking firms. The acquisition of Gastrell & Co had already enlarged the business; now the partners determined to continue the process by careful acquisition of some of the better firms which were seeking strength in merger. These included Ransford & Co in 1974, Burtt, Jones, Ley & Gaskarth in 1975 and A J Pryor & Co in 1976. Some of these were themselves the result of earlier mergers of even more historic firms such as Boyes & Gaskarth, G S Herbert and Albery Lund. More firms followed: T T Curwen & Sons, Woollan & Co, and many groups of partners from firms which broke apart. The premises were expanded, and expanded again, as the number of partners and staff grew apace. Charles Stanley was no longer a tiny partnership but had blossomed into a substantial firm.

Sir Edward Howard, the senior partner, had already served as Sheriff of the City of London in 1966-67. In 1971 he was elected Lord Mayor, following in the footsteps of his father as first Citizen of London.

It was twelve years earlier that the Stock Exchange had begun to redevelop its site, and Charles Stanley had had to leave Throgmorton Street. This proved to be a massive rebuilding programme, hampered by the need to maintain a continuous market amongst the building works. Now the senior partner of Charles Stanley returned to the site of the firm's former office, where the new floor of The Stock Exchange was opened with great ceremony on 8th November 1972 by HM The Queen, accompanied by Sir Martin Wilkinson, the Chairman of The Stock Exchange, and the Lord Mayor of London - Sir Edward Howard.

The second part of the History of Charles Stanley

A modern firm

In 1970 there were 216 full-service stockbroking firms in London and perhaps another 100 in the regions. In the next thirty years that figure would decline by two-thirds.

In the early 1970s moves were made to bring the many provincial market floors into union with London. This was quickly followed by full integration of the national market; and by new computerised settlement procedures, share prices delivered over television screens, the introduction of computers into settlement and valuations, and a revolution in communications. All this called for careful planning and the commitment of capital. The 1980s took this further with far-reaching changes in the regulatory system, the abolition of fixed commissions and the introduction of outside ownership to the market. The dramatic adjustments which this wrought on the industry have been well documented. Less is known of the way in which firms have reshaped themselves to meet the changes.

Charles Stanley & Co had always specialised in offering professional advice to the private investor. 

It was natural that the firm should build on this strength. Charles Stanley's clients reflected its long history: they included a wide network of branches of all the major banks; leading firms of solicitors and accountants; well-known national charities and professional institutes; and a vast range of important private individuals, who valued the quality of the firm's advice. Change was afoot in Charles Stanley's management too. In 1971, at the age of 26, David Howard became Managing Partner of the rapidly growing firm.

The pace of acquisition continued into the 1980s, but now there was a further development. In 1981 the firm opened a branch in Cambridge, to support one of its partners. Its success led quickly to the acquisition of a branch office in Ipswich, in 1983; and to the opening of a new branch in 1985 in Norwich. Further branches followed in steady succession.Though Charles Stanley is, as always, a City firm, the branches have proved to be a valuable means of extending its professional services to an ever increasing number of clients.


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