A Brief History of Investment Services Industry

The investment services industry comprises of banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, investment bankers, security traders, financial planners and security exchanges.

The 1920’s saw the Great Depression which originated with the crash of Wall Street. The hardest hit were heavy industries, which were pre dominant at that time.

The 80’s saw the biggest stock market crash of all time. It started in Hong Kong and spread to other nations. The 1990’s saw the great Asian crisis, which originated in Thailand. Despite having a huge debt, Thailand chose to float its currency leading it into financial ruin. This impacted the whole of South East Asia adversely. The 2000’s saw the dot-com burst, with several millions of dollars put behind non-profitable ideas.

The year 2007 saw credit markets face large scale default on loans. This led to the Financial Crisis of 2008 – 2009. This has resulted in the bankruptcy. It has seen the bailouts of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia, Northern Rock, Lloyds TSB, HBOS, RBS and the entire banking system of Iceland.

These crises generally saw reduced growth rates and tighter regulations.

One of the important Acts put into place in 1933 post the Great Depression was the Glass Stegall Act (GSA). This Act separated investment and commercial banking activities. Excessive imprudent commercial bank involvement in stock market investment was considered the cause of the financial crash. It was felt that banks over-speculated with depositors' money.

The GSA set up a regulatory barrier between commercial and investment bank activities. Banks were given a year to decide on whether they would specialize in commercial or in investment banking. Only 10% of commercial banks' total income could stem from securities. The exception was that commercial banks were allowed underwrite government issued bonds. For example JP Morgan and Company, was forced to cut their services and, thereby, a main source of their income. By creating this barrier, the GSA was aiming to prevent the banks' use of deposits in the case of a failed underwriting job.

Critics of the GSA said allowing banks to diversify moderately helped reduce risk.

After the debacle of Enron it was expected banks would be more transparent with better checks and balances in place, preventing imprudent investment decisions.

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