If you’ve ever wondered which UK stockbroker is the oldest firm, this article will attempt to provide you with a satisfying answer. We’ve done the search to find the UK’s oldest stockbroker, although as you’ll soon see, there is more than one firm that can claim this title.
Stockbrokers were originally individuals, not firms
In the early history of the London Stock Exchange, a stockbroker was an individual. As were other roles such as the stock jobbers who played the role of market-market.
In modern times, stockbroking is still a career for individuals, but the rise of automated online trading & clearance systems means that the majority of retail investors don’t interact with a human when they place a trade.
Consequently, we think of the financial institutions that facilitate these trades as the stockbrokers. For example, our UK Stockbroker Awards are awarded to organisations rather than individuals, and our stockbroker reviews critique an entire service rather than the performance of a named trader.
We know the stock market as rapidly up ticking and down ticking prices, but the stock market as we know it today developed in a very incremental fashion from humble origins.
At its heart, a stock market is just a gathering place that allows brokers to agree on a price to trade shares on behalf of their clients. And to begin with, it was just that – a gathering place. Coffeehouses were common. In such a way, the stock market resembled something closer to a rowdy book club meeting than a sophisticated exchange.
Here are some of the best UK stockbrokers or stock jobbers from the early period of the London Stock Exchange:
- Thomas Guy – 1710
- Sampson Gideon – 1740
- Alexander Fordyce – 1772
- Atkinson – 1785
- Benjamin Walsh, M.P. – 1811 (source)
UK’s oldest stockbroker – previous firms
Hichens Harrison was the oldest stockbroker in the UK until relatively recently. It was unusual (or impossible) for businesses to incorporate as a company in the 1800s which means that records are sparse.
However, the earliest primary source dates the firm in 1803. This evidence takes the form of a document describing Robert Hichens (the firms’ namesake) as a stockbroker.
The prestigious brand name was discontinued in 2005 after the firm listed on the London AIM market and was subsequently acquired by an Indian conglomerate and its operations were subsumed into its existing business.
Hichens Harrison had been continuing a corporate and private client broker in modern times and had not courted the swelling ranks of retail investors which allowed other stockbrokers to grow into large corporations.
Cazenove took the crown from Hichens as the UK’s oldest broker from 2005 to 2009, before it then too was acquired. This time by JP Morgan and other acquirers who bought different parts of the business. The Cazenove name still lives on as JP Morgan Cazenove, a division of the US investment bank.
The oldest large firm of stockbrokers
Which of our shortlist of the best UK stockbrokers is the oldest?
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The answer is Hargreaves Lansdown. As we explain in our Hargreaves Lansdown review, the firm was founded in 1981, making it a relative dinosaur compared to ii (1995), AJ Bell (1995), Nutmeg (2011). Fidelity (1946) and eToro (2007) were founded outside the UK so we don’t include them in this comparison.
The oldest surviving stockbroker
The question of which surviving stockbroker is the oldest independent stockbroker is up for some debate.
The next oldest independent firm we could find is Redmayne Bentley, est. 1875 which could be the UK’s oldest surviving stockbroking firm.