Will the prestige of the London money market be maintained when the war is over? This is a question of enormous importance, not only to every one who works in and about the City, but to all who are interested in the maintenance and increase of England’s wealth. Like all other questions about what is going to happen some day, the answer to it will depend to a very great extent on what happens between the present moment and the return of peace. To arrive at an answer we have first to consider on what London’s financial prestige has been based in the past, and on this subject we are able to cite in evidence the opinion of an enemy. Our own views about the reasons which gave us financial eminence may well be coloured by national and patriotic prejudice, but when we take the opinion of a German we may be pretty sure that it is not warped by any predisposition in favour of English character and achievement.
A little book published this year by Messrs. Macmillan and Co., entitled “England’s Financial Supremacy,” contains a translation of a series of articles from the Frankfurter Zeitung, and from this witness we are able to get some information which may be valuable, and is certainly interesting.
The basis of England’s financial supremacy is recapitulated as follows by this devil’s advocate:—
“The influence of history, a mighty empire, a cosmopolitan Stock Exchange, intimate business connections throughout the whole world, cheap money, a free gold market, steady exchanges, an almost unlimited market for capital and an excellent credit system, an elastic system of company legislation, a model Insurance organisation and the help of Germans, these are the factors that have created England’s financial supremacy. Perhaps we have omitted one other factor, the errors and omissions of other nations.”
Coming closer to detail, our critic says, with regard to the international nature of the business done on the London Stock Exchange:—
“In recent years London had almost lost its place as the busiest stock market in the world. New York, as a rule, Berlin on many occasions, could show more dealings than London. But there was no denying the international character of its business. This was due to England’s position of company promoter and money lender to the world; to the way in which new capital was issued there; to its Stock Exchange rules, so independent of legislative and Treasury interference; to the international character of its Stock Exchange members, and to the cosmopolitan character of its clients,”
On the subject of our Insurance business and the fair-mindedness and quickness of settlement with which it was conducted, we can cite the same witness as follows:—
“Insurance, again, represented by the well-known organisation of Lloyds, which in form is something between a stock exchange and a co-operative partnership, is nowhere more elastic and adaptable than in London. It must be said, to the credit of Lloyds, that anyone asking to be insured there was never hindered by bureaucratic restrictions, and always found his wishes met to the furthest possible extent. The agencies of Lloyds abroad are also so arranged that both the insured and the insurer can have their claims settled quickly and equitably.”