Share Prices & Company Research

Press Release

06 March 2018

Eric celebrates his 40th stockbroking anniversary

When Eric Spreng began his stockbroking career, the FTSE 100 didn’t yet exist, and Big Bang and the Thatcher-era privatisation boom were still almost a decade away.
This month the investment manager, based at the Perth office of national investment management and stockbroking firm Redmayne Bentley, has celebrated 40 years of unbroken service in the industry.
1978 was a difficult year for the UK economy, with inflation having only just dipped back into single figures and the Winter of Discontent just around the corner. Interest rates were rising, peaking at 17% in 1979. However, Eric said: “It was less volatile in the markets than it is now as they didn’t have the ups and downs of today.”
Eric began his career with Wishart Brodie & Company in Edinburgh, a few days shy of his 19th birthday in February that year. He explained: “I was taken on as a trainee transfer clerk and my initial salary was £1,200 per annum. I had responded to an advert in The Scotsman.”
In October 1978, Eric moved to the small Dunfermline-based firm of Torrie & Co. He said: “I was appointed office manager in 1980 at the tender age of 21 and was made an Authorised Stock Exchange telephone dealer in 1981.  
“In March 1984, I was very proud to be elected an individual Member of The Stock Exchange. I was still only 25 years old and I was the youngest-ever member of the Scottish unit of the Stock Exchange.”
This was the start of an exciting era for the industry. During the 1980s, members of the public were, for the first time, given the chance to own shares in formerly state-controlled firms. These included British Aerospace, British Telecom, British Gas, Rolls-Royce and the British Steel Corporation. This, of course, was an extremely busy time for Eric, who on some occasions was required to work throughout the night.
The ‘Big Bang’ revolutionised the financial services industry in October 1986, when the Financial Services Act changed the cosy ‘closed shop’ of London markets into a fiercely competitive new world. The event brought about electronic screen-based trading, swept away the old boys’ network of British banks, opened the City to international banks and helped the growth of UK financial services.
The FTSE 100, like the Dow Jones in the US, had been trending broadly upwards for around five years, with interest rates falling and the excitement around the wave of privatisations. However, in October 1987, the euphoria came to an abrupt halt when stock markets all over the world crashed, with a global sell-off spreading from Hong Kong into Europe and the FTSE 100 dropping more than 20 per cent over the space of two days.
This was what Eric described as a “unique period” in the history of stock markets. He said: “There was a lot of activity in markets that suddenly came to a shuddering halt.”
In 1999, having run the back office of Torrie & Co. for several years, Eric felt that the time was right to move on to pastures new. He opened an office for Redmayne Bentley in Dunfermline and changed his focus from the back office to the investment management side of the business. In 2009, the Dunfermline office merged with the firm’s Perth office in Marshall Place. Eric still works there, together with his colleagues Simeon Laing, Lorraine Laird and Susan Watt, and amongst them they boast over 100 years of experience in private client stockbroking.
Whilst markets see more rises and falls than when Eric began his career, he does not believe that they will see similar events to those of 1987, or the even dotcom boom and bust of the turn of the century. He said: “I think a similar crash is technically possible today, but there was less regulation of the markets back then. I don’t think it will happen.”
Eric added: “I’m not sure if I will manage to reach my half century but I certainly have no immediate plans for retirement. I feel privileged to have spent my working life in stockbroking, a profession which has given me an exciting, interesting and fulfilling career. I am certainly glad that I replied to that advert in The Scotsman and every day I remember The Stock Exchange motto – 'My Word Is My Bond’.”  
Eric celebrates his 40th stockbroking anniversary