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e-cyclopedia Tuesday, 3 November, 1998, 12:16 GMT
So who are the men behind the money?
Bankers dozen: The men behind the money
Martin Taylor, Gavyn Davies, Robert Scott, Donald Bryden. . . who? You might well ask.

To all but a tiny minority these names will mean nothing. But according to The Observer newspaper they rank among the most powerful and influential people in Britain today.

Messrs Taylor, Davies, Scott and Bryden number among 13 investment bankers to feature in the top third of the paper's Power 300 list, which charts the rise of the "new elite" at the expense of the old Establishment.

Pretty impressive, when you consider that few people could tell you what an investment banker does.

Their role is to oil the giant wheels of big business by advising companies on expansion and arranging the vast amounts of necessary finance.

The City of London is home to much of Britain's "new elite"
"They put together the financial packages to start your business, grow your business and expand it overseas," says Justin Urquhart Stewart, of Barclays Stockbrokers.

In short, they are the fix-it men behind takeovers, mergers and acquisitions, without whom the global economy would come to a grinding halt.

But while it comes as no surprise to see Tony Blair, Rupert Murdoch and Sir Terence Conran name-checked among the new "ruling elite", investment bankers inhabit a faceless world, alien to the glare of publicity.

That is by design rather than accident, says Mr Urquhart Stewart.

"You hear about BSkyB bidding to buy Manchester United, but you are not told about the banks that are right there at the centre of the deal," he says.

Low profile

"In most cases it's in their interests to keep a low profile because they are working for clients; they are the backroom boys, the people whispering into the ear of the king."

While there is nothing new about investment banking, it only came of age during the financial boom of the 1980s, assisted by the deregulation of world financial markets and new technology.

"A couple of decades ago you couldn't leave the country with more than 50 sterling. These days the free movement of capital is taken for granted. Millions of pounds are transferred around the world every day."

Loan alternative

Of course, investment bankers do not have a monopoly on generating cash for ambitious businessmen. The alternative is a straightforward loan.

Kit Farrow, director general of London Investment Banking, says the main selling point for his sector is lower costs for the client.

Investment banks tend to take a fee rather than charging interest, and also cut out the middle-man, since, if you arrange a loan at a bank, it will most likely be financed by an investment bank anyway.

But while investment bankers treasure their low profile, there is something to be said for greater public awareness of what they do, believes Mr Urquhart Stewart.

After all, it is they who manage the money we plough into pension funds and life insurance go when it leaves our bank account. It is they who invest unit trust contributions and private shareholdings.

And take home big bonuses for doing so.

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