World’s oldest brokerage vanishes under globalising Indian umbrella (Lead)March 18th, 2010 - 8:10 pm ICT by IANS
By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, March 18 (IANS) The world’s oldest brokerage firm has faded into history after its famous name was scratched out by its Indian owners as part of ambitious plans to establish a global financial services umbrella.
Indian financial services giant Religare, which acquired the 200-year-old British firm Hichens Harrison in 2008 to be known as Religare Hichens Harrison in London, renamed itself Religare Capital Markets at an event Wednesday.
Attended by Britain’s Trade and Investment Minister Lord Mervyn Davies, the event was held to announce the merger of Religare’s investment banking arm with its brokerage service under a single umbrella.
“This move brings its investment banking and institutional broking businesses under one umbrella globally as the company accelerates its drive to become the world’s first integrated platform for emerging markets,” a spokesman for Religare said.
But after the recent takeover of the colonial-era East India Company by Indian businessman Sanjeev Mehta, the end of Hichens Harrison - dating back to at least 1803 - was mourned by some in the City of London.
“The name carried a lot of clout and a huge number of people will be very sad to see it go,” columnist Victoria Bates quoted a “City chum” as saying in City A.M., a free business paper serving London.
Scotching sentiment, minister Davies “welcomed” the move, saying: “Religare made an excellent decision to invest in London, and is doubling its staff over the next three years. Its offices here are helping the firm to achieve its aim of global growth.”
A spokesman for Religare admitted Hichens Harrison was an old name, but told IANS: “I don’t think from the market feedback we’re getting that the name carried a particularly huge brand value.”
He said renaming made “strategic sense” for Religare as it positioned itself as a financial services product serving the global market.
“With the Hichens Harrison name, there was some confusion about who does what. It made strategic sense to unify the brand globally.”
Hichens Harrison, described as a “bastion of Britishness”, was snapped up in a 55 million pound cash deal by Religare, which is controlled by Malvinder and Shivinder Mohan Singh, one-time owners of the drug company Ranbaxy.
Hichens Harrison was said to be the only City stockbroking firm to have survived more than 200 years almost in its original form.
The firm was set up by Robert Hichens - no one knows when but the oldest document bearing his name dates back to 1803. Hichens, from a Cornish fishing family that had fallen on hard times, was joined in 1817 by Frederic Harrison.
Religare will hold on to its rights to the Hichens Harrison name rather than sell it, but has no plans to use it, the spokesman said.
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