Firm takes step back in time to mark birthday

FEW business empires have been started with just a coal-scuttle and a ledger book.

Back in 1875, a bank clerk called John Redmayne decided to set up his own stockbroking business in Leeds.

One hundred and thirty five years later, the firm – now known as Redmayne-Bentley – is still going strong, and has grown to include 37 branches.

To mark the anniversary, Redmayne-Bentley decided to deck out its office in a style the company's founder would have recognised.

Visitors to Redmayne-Bentley's head office in Leeds had the chance to peruse items from the firm's mini-museum, which includes the company's first ledger book and letters written by John Redmayne.

Keith Loudon, the senior partner who has worked with the company since 1956, said Redmayne-Bentley would continue to thrive by responding to market forces.

He added: "Change is a means of survival. But the office has always been within a quarter of a mile of where I am sitting now."

John Redmayne was born into a farming family in Ribblesdale in 1845.

He became an expert in railway stocks, and was originally a Yorkshire Bank clerk before he set up his own stockbroking firm in Leeds in December 1875.

He headed to America in 1887, to forge links with Boston stockbrokers and find out more about global investment.

In 1923 Mr Loudon's father – Gavin – joined the firm. Thirty-three years later, when Mr Loudon, started working there, the company employed just four people and was based at the corner of Albion Place and Bond Street in Leeds.

It was an era of change. Many of the regional stock exchanges were merging, and stockbrokers faced a raft of new regulations.

Mr Loudon recalled: "One of the rule changes, was that there could no longer be one-man stockbrokers, so two-man firms were only a heartbeat from extinction."

Mr Loudon's father Gavin adapted to these changing times by arranging the merger of three old-established firms: Redmayne & Co, JW Granger & Co and FW Bentley & Co. It was decided that the name of the new outfit would be Redmayne-Bentley.

Mr Loudon, who is still working at the age of 77, believes stockbrokers are a hardy breed.

In 1900 John Percival Hartley came from London and opened a branch office for Redmayne & Co in Harrogate. He manned the office for a staggering 60 years.

Mr Loudon said: "When I started at the Leeds stock exchange, the chairman was Warren Hastings Kaye, who worked for R Salmon Backhouse stockbrokers until he was 95 and got an MBE."

The firm was one of the first of its kind to install a teleprinter.

If a bomb had dropped on the Yorkshire Post and destroyed the newspaper's teleprinter, then Redmayne's machine would have been used to receive war correspondents' copy. Thankfully, Redmayne's teleprinter never had to be called on to help the newspaper.

In recent years, Redmayne-Bentley has been on the acquisition trail.

In November 2007, the company took over SP Angel Private Client retail business.

This move gave Redmayne-Bentley new branches in Exeter, Liverpool, Cobham and Bishop's Stortford, while three new executives joined the Leeds office and eight were hired for the London team.

The following year, Redmayne-Bentley acquired Tethers Private Client Stockbroking business after it went into administration.

Two years ago, Redmayne-Bentley established its first international venture.

An Irish branch was opened in Cork which is managed by three brokers dealing in euros and sterling. Today, the firm employs around 260 people.

"We have survived because of our reputation for friendliness and openness,'' said Mr Loudon.

"We are respected as a consistent and long-standing part of the Leeds financial scene."

Pioneer of the 'visible' dealing

Leeds-based Redmayne-Bentley was one of the pioneers of the "visible" dealing room, which gave clients the chance to see stockbrokers in action.

It was also one of the first firms of stockbrokers to use the press to spread the word about its services and plans for expansion.

Senior partner Keith Loudon recalled: "FW Bentley (which merged with Redmayne & Co in 1965) used to be based near the old Yorkshire Post building in Albion Street. They used to back the big lorries in with three inches to spare on either side.

"We had Charles Pritchard, the City Editor of the Yorkshire Post from 1959 to 1984, as a guest at our dinners. He was a fantastic speaker."