Marty McFly’s trip to the future of investing

WHEN MARTY McFly jumped on board the flying DeLorean time machine in October 1985, he left behind a world in which City slickers hollered at colleagues and slammed telephones, while monitoring a dazzling array of flashing numbers.

Back to the Future (1985)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Shown from left: Christopher Lloyd (as Dr. Emmett Brown), Michael J. Fox (as Marty McFly)
Back to the Future (1985) Directed by Robert Zemeckis Shown from left: Christopher Lloyd (as Dr. Emmett Brown), Michael J. Fox (as Marty McFly)

If Marty and his chums had touched down in the real 2015, they might have been shocked to find that share trading had become a rather more restrained affair.

And, sadly, nobody had quite found the time to invent hoverboards and flying cars. Today is a big day for fans of the film Back To The Future II. As any film buff will tell you, Marty McFly, Jennifer Parker and Dr Emmett “Doc” Brown landed on October 21 2015 to save the past, having flown from October 1985.

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Back in 1985, the FTSE 100 was still relatively new. The FTSE 100’s constituents had a market capitalisation of £164bn in total in December that year, compared with £1.55tn as of September 30 2015.

Had Marty ventured on to a stock market trading floor in 2015, he would have been surprised to see dealers at their screens.

One person who remembers the heady days of 1985 is Kathryn Whale, an assistant finance manager at Leeds-based Redmayne-Bentley. She began working for the stockbroking and investment management firm in 1981.

She said: “The dealing room was filled with the sound of ringing phones.

“As soon as they would start ringing, we would rush to help everyone answer them. We would be holding as many phones as it was physically possible to hold.”

Marty and Doc’s departure from 1985 was just before a major shift in the world of finance, known as Big Bang. Brought about by the Financial Services Act of 1986, this event saw the deregulation of financial markets and opened the City up to fierce new competition.

In 1985, dealing was done via ‘open outcry’ - where dealers shouted and used hand signals to communicate on buy and sell orders – but after Big Bang, dealing became entirely screen-based.

In the late 1980s, the Government implemented a major programme of privatisation, which, for the first time, gave people the chance to own shares in major companies such as British Gas, British Telecom, British Steel and water and energy suppliers. Training manager Judith Ullock joined Redmayne-Bentley in 1985 as a trainee stockbroker.

She recalled: “We had people queuing to get in, and packed into the office. We were there, working until the early hours to make sure applications got in on time.

“I remember the buzz. We were so busy then, and days just flew by.”

She added: “People would buy shares for themselves, as well as their families. We were working together to take as many applications as we could – but it was all good fun.”

This hectic atmosphere also suited Gordon Gekko, the main character in another smash hit 1980s film, Wall Street. However, Gordon’s ruthlessness was typical of a less scrupulous approach to business that contributed to the global financial crisis of 2008.

The crisis brought about major changes within financial regulation. Nobody wants to take a trip on a DeLorean to the dark days of late 2008.