As retail stockbroker The Share Centre completes the integration of more than 11,000 Barclays’ customers, Joe McGrath asks head of dealing Jo Measure what the future holds for the business.
Against the backdrop of the economic cloud gathering over the City in the early 1990s, an unknown stockbroking business was preparing to launch in suburbia.
By the spring of 1991, The Share Centre had started life as a retail broker offering self-select share dealing services to personal investors.
Within 18 months, it had secured contracts to provide white-labelled share dealing services for readers of the Mail on Sunday, The Guardian and a large regional newspaper group.
Ten years later and it was operating its own share trading platform – Sharemark – and had established a holding company with more than 90,000 of its account customers entitled to shares by the turn of the millennium.
By 2008, the company floated with a share offer that was four times oversubscribed. Today it boasts more than 227,000 customers across the UK.
In April of this year, Barclays Stockbrokers ceased offering certificated share dealing and transferred all customers requiring the service to the Buckinghamshire-based stockbroker.
It meant the addition of more than 11,000 clients overnight and presented The Share Centre with the challenge of handling a significant increase in the number of trades overnight, with the dealing team growing from 14 to 18.
Previously, the Barclays operation had been based in Glasgow, but when the bank decided that it no longer wanted to run the business, the decision was taken to hand operations to an outside provider.
Responsibility for the transition, fell to head of dealing, Jo Measure, a long-standing staffer who started her career in trading at the turn of the millennium.
The transition project to accommodate the Barclays clients from the 8 April 2015, started many months before and resulted in a notable change of service for the clients.
Measure explains: “We have a complete new team (looking after the legacy Barclays customers). We are running it quite differently from Barclays. Barclays had settled in the market T+10 whereas we are T+2.”
Barclays had previously stipulated that the settlement period of 10 working days from the day of the trade was something that was necessary because of “the administration involved in dealing with paper certificates,” but The Share Centre has, so far at least, proven that a two working day target is achievable.
While Barclays’ legacy customers may have witnessed quicker settlement, they have also had to endure a reregistration process as Barclays decided not to provide The Share Centre with its customer database at the time of transition.
Measure says this has meant having to explain to clients how the new service runs and ask for many of their personal details again to be added to the system.
She says: “Unfortunately, the database didn’t come over and it makes the conversations quite long but people seem understanding. Our average [initial] call for a Barclays customer is anything from 10 to 15 minutes whereas for a nominee you can whack a trade through in less than a minute.
“If you get a contract note from us, the commission is split between us and Barclays but, apart from that, there is no influence from Barclays as to how the service is now run.”
Staff across the dealing desk are now being trained so that eventually legacy Barclays clients will be able to be serviced by The Share Centre’s traditional dealing team.
Aside from the Barclays integration, Measure has been faced with the same regulatory headaches that face heads of dealing, whether operating in the retial or institutional market.
The issue of best execution in the wake of the FCA’s Thematic Review has led to an overhaul of the business’s IT system which can better quantify the quality of execution from the company’s dealers.
The Share Centre’s new proprietary system produces a comprehensive audit trail of venues, times, prices and liquidity availability. It has been a labour of love for Measure and the company’s IT team which saw the system go live in March.
Like many of the projects she manages within the business, she is a picture of modesty saying that the true value in the system won’t be known until it is bedded in for longer period of time.
She says: “From what I have seen so far, it is great to see that we are performing at where we thought we were in terms of execution. We have always said we endeavour to do our best for each trade.”
Measure’s importance in the business is significant. While she has responsibility for the trading function, she also has been keen to be a part of the various client service initiatives going on within the business. She jokes that she was reluctantly persuaded to take on responsibility for client complaints, but her enthusiasm for the role suggests otherwise.
Her own route into trading offers some explanation as to why her team have such a wide range of educational backgrounds. While some have financial and accounting experience, others have learnt on the job, taking the necessary industry exams as they went. Many have never worked in the City of London.
Measure’s route to head of the dealing desk is a surprising one. Absent is the experience on the smoky London Stock Exchange floor, the Oxbridge economics degree or the computer science PHD. Instead, she is armed with a fashion degree, which initially led her to working in the film industry.
Prior to the turn of the century, she worked designing costumes for big screen blockbusters. But, after 15 years working in the arts, she had to make a decision when her industry took a turn for the worse.
She recalls: “The end of my (film industry) career came around 9/11. After that, the work in this country really dried up. I was sick of doing 80-90 hour weeks and getting up at the crack of dawn and leaving work late in the evening. I loved the work but the hours really started to get to me.
“After that, I floated around doing some office work locally before I saw a job for a dealing assistant at The Share Centre. I had always liked figures and when I was doing my A Levels had thought maybe I’d become an accountant. I then became a team leader and did all of the exams required and I became the desk manager in 2008.”
Her varied career experiences means she often recruits those with a broad educational or career backgrounds and allow them to study and qualify for a more expanded role while in training.
She says: “I like to think that I can gauge someone’s character quite quickly. The interview is quite an artificial environment. Everybody on the team has taken exams on how the industry works and we encourage people to study.
“The normal progression [for more junior staff] is that they are required to do the CISI Introductory exams and if people want to progress, we ask them to do the Investment Operations Certificate, formerly the IAQ. For those doing more unit trust work, there is the CFA programme.”