The traditional role of merchant banks was to accept bills of exchange, to provide funds for trade and also to raise capital to British companies through the issue of bonds and other securities. These activities continue, but the role of Britain's merchant banks has diversified enormously in recent years. Although they are called "banks" they are more involved in providing a range of professional services, such as corporate finance andinvestment management, than in lending money.
Building societies are mutual institutions owned by their savers and borrowers. They have traditionally concentrated on housing finance, long-term mortgage loans against property - most usually houses purchased for occupation. Services have been extended into other areas, including banking, investment services and insurance. The Societies are one of the main places were people deposit their savings - around 60% of adults have a building society saving accounts. Building societies offer a variety of accounts with interest rates related to the time for which a saver is prepared to tie up his money. So they are major lenders for house purchases. Four of the largest Societies are planning to become banks. The largest Societies, the Halifax, Abbey National and Nationwide owe 45% of the total assets of the movement.
National Savings Bank.
The National Savings Bank is run by the department of National Savings. It provides a system of depositing and withdrawing savings at twenty thousand post offices around the country or by post. The National Savings Bank does not offer lending facilities. Its deposits are used to finance the Governments public sector needs.
The investing institutions are those which collect savings and invest them into securities market and other long-term assets. The main investment institutions are insurance companies, pension funds, unit trusts and investment trusts. Together they make a vast resource of funds which are invested in securities and other assets. They own around 58% of British shares. The British insurance industry is highly sophisticated and serves millions of policyholders in Britain and overseas. Policyholders include governments, companies and individuals. The British insurance is the forth largest in the world and in proportion to its GDP is the highest in any country. There are 2 broad categories of insurance: long-term insurance for many years, such as life insurance, permanent health (medical) insurance; and general insurance for a year or less, which covers risks of damage, such as loss of property, accidents and short-term health insurance. In 1995 there were about 830 authorized to carry on insurance business in Britain. The industry as a whole employs some 207.000 people, plus about 126.000 are employed in activities related to insurance.
Lloyd's is an incorporated society of private insurers in London. Originally it dealt with marine insurance. Today it deals with other classes of insurance, today it deals with other classes of insurance. Long-term life and financial guarantee business is not covered. Insurance brokers as intermediaries are a valuable part of the insurance market. Lloyd's insurance brokers play an important role in the Lloyd's market.
Institute of London Underwriters was formed in 1984 as an association for marine underwriters. Today it provides a market where member insurance companies transact marine, energy, commercial transport and aviation insurance business. The Institute issues combined policies in its own name on risks which are underwritten by member companies. About half of the 58 member companies are branches or subsidiaries of overseas companies.
Pension Funds collect savings Pension Funds collect savings from occupational pension schemes and personal pension schemes. Pension contributions are invested through intermediaries in securities and other investment markets. Pension fund have a become a major force in securities markets because they hold about 28% of the securities listed on the London Stock Exchange. Total Pension fund assets are very big. To protect them the Pensions Act was introduced in 1995 to increase confidence in the security of the funds.
Investment trusts and unit trusts.
Both investment trusts and unit trusts offer investors the opportunity to benefit from pools investments, although their respective structures are somewhat different. Assets have grown considerably in the last few years. So individuals are attracted by the possibility to invest rather small amounts either on a regular basis, usually monthly, or in a lump sum.
Investment trusts companies are companies which are listed on the London Stock Exchange and must invest mostly in securities for the benefit of their shareholders. The trusts are exempt from tax on money which they get within the trusts. Some trusts specialize in particular geographical areas or in particular markets. At the end of June 1996 there were about 350 investment trusts companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.
In unit trusts the investors' fund are pooled together but are divided into units of equal size. Unit trusts are open ended collective funds where the funds are managed by management groups. The unit trust sector has grown rapidly in recent years. Nearly three million people are estimated to have holdings in unit group.
The origin of the London Stock Exchange goes back to the coffee houses of the 17th century, where those who those who wished to invest or raise money bought and sold shares of joint-stock companies. Brokers later opened their own subscription rooms and in 1773 this was named the Stock Exchange. During the 19th century the Stock Exchange developed as the demand for capitol grew with Britain's Industrial Revolution. The Exchange also financed the construction of railways, bridges and dams across the world. Today it is one of a number of highly organized financial markets of the City. It provides trading platform and the means of raising capital for British and foreign companies, Government securities, eurobonds and depository receipts. Official list is the Exchanges main market, while AIM, the Exchanges new market is for smaller rapidly growing companies. It opened in 1995. Companies which apply for a listing on the Exchange must provide a full picture of their operations, i9ncluding their financial record, management and business prospects. If a company wants to join AIM the rules are less strict. Such companies include multimedia and high technology business.
Today the Exchange has moved away from