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Taking stock
Taking stock
Finance’s annual stockbroking survey appears this month, and the survey, as well as the articles appearing in the Supplement accompanying this issue depict exciting changes in the industry. Stockbroking is buffeted by many changes, including currency change with the euro, the ongoing changes in the capital structure of the Irish economy, the boost to private client business arising from growing personal affluence, and, not least, the drama of the internet, and the emergence of a global technological trading platform for equities and other securities.

Skills will be to the fore, and increasing specialisation and quality of service in an increasingly global marketplace will be the key to success in the industry. These facts are evident from the Survey responses in this, the fourteenth annual survey of the sector conducted by Finance.

In individual categories Dan McLaughlin’s win in the economist category is evidence of the shuffling at the top. ABN AMRO have performed very well in this year’s survey, a vote of confidence in its own pan-European strategy. However it is also a striking feature of the survey is that many of last year’s rankings are maintained.

Long time winner Jim O’Leary is again there or there abouts in the rankings for top economist too, getting the silver medal for the second year in a row.

The themes echoed throughout the Supplement testify to the challenges of Ireland being a small market in an increasingly globalised investment market. Not only are the shareholders of Irish companies becoming increasingly international, but the stockbrokers themselves are providing wider international services. With many institutional investors now based outside of Ireland the supplement is a snapshot of the investment industry in Ireland in 2000. But without a doubt Ireland and its investment community are rising to these challenges. On the stockbrokers side they are providing the services their clients need meaning that for fund managers themselves there has never been a better choice in the market. New members of the Irish Stock Exchange also bode well for the opportunities in the market. Yes it will make for increasing competition but this should be positive for institutional investors. However the opinions of where Ireland stands are not all good - some feel that the ISE itself is too small to really benefit for the predicted boom in technology listings due over the next few years.

Commerzbank’s proposals to offer its pan-European research facilities to smaller domestic stockbrokers means that there could be some interesting developments in this market over the coming year.

Pension Reserve Fund
The NTMA’s ideas for the Pension Reserve fund are outlined by John Corrigan on page 4. In extracts from his paper, given to the Dublin Economic Workshop in Kerry recently, he looks at the possibilities for management of the fund which could be equal to over 40 per cent of GDP by 2025. That is going to be some fund management job. There are several members of the Irish Association of Investment Managers very interested in getting their hands on some of this business - and international players too. Increasing competition is a fact of life it seems in the investment business. It is notable too that Corrigan says there is a mandate to have a strong passively managed element to the fund. ‘There is considerable merit in the idea of the fund having a core passive portfolio combined with active specialist portfolios...’ It will be interesting to see whether the fund managers who are eventually chosen agree.

Tax partners dominate accountancy firms
Paul Smith’s interview on page 7 marks his recent appointment as managing partner of Ernst & Young. Tax experts seem to be a driving force in accountancy at the moment with four of five of the big firms having tax experts as managing partners. His opinions suggest a blurring of the lines between accountancy practices and consultancy. He is an advocate of using an exploratory analytical process called a ‘float room’ to help clients wishing to go for IPO. And his opinions of the business generally could be summed up with ‘it’s not rocket science, but a lot of detail and control.’

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