Challenges and Opportunities, 1919-1939
Though the Stock Exchange had begun to review its rules and regulations from September 1916 onwards, there was very little planning to meet the problems and competition likely to be faced in the post-war world. Despite all the changes inside and outside the Stock Exchange, that had taken place since August 1914, there was only a limited recognition that these had more than temporary consequences. One retired broker, J. Coles, probably spoke for most, when he observed in April 1916,
I do not suppose anybody thinks the centre of finance will ever go away from London and I believe the prosperity of the Stock Exchange will increase with a rush when peace comes. I most certainly believe in the future and look forward to the future of the Stock Exchange with a great deal of confidence.1
Even this war was expected to come to an end, and with it the circumstances that had done so much to undermine the traditional strengths of the Stock Exchange. After a century during which the London Stock Exchange had grown from strength to strength, both domestically and internationally, it was difficult to believe that a few years of war could make much difference.
Nevertheless, the occasional member with time to reflect did experience some unease about the future. One such was J. Underhill. While on military service at the front he wrote to Colonel Satterthwaite in February 1916 expressing his concern.
Conflicting stories reach us as to the attitude of the people in England. As far as I can judge there appears to be depression about the war but optimism about the financial condition. Out here it is the reverse, we all feel optimistic about the war but pessimistic about the cost of it all.2