The History of Ramsey Crookall
Ramsey Crookall and Co commenced trading on the 3rd June 1946 from ground floor offices at 17 Athol Street, Douglas, Isle of Man.
The Founders were: Brian McMeekin, lifelong friend and acquaintance of Ramsey Crookall. Brian’s father was a Stockbroker in London and partner of Levy Langner & Co, who acted as the firm’s London Agents. And Ramsey Crookall, who after serving in the RAF during World War II and surviving four invasions, qualified in York to become a Member of the Provincial Brokers Stock Exchange in June 1946.
Office hours were a gentleman’s affair in the early days. Business commenced at 10am till 1pm, closed for lunch until 3 and then home at 5pm.
The 1946 bought and sold ledgers show that there were four bargains completed on the very first day of trading : a purchase of £2500 3 ½% War Stock at a price of 106 3/32, a sale of 1000 Daily Mirror ordinary shares at 26/9 and a matched bargain in 1000 Douglas Holiday Camp Preference Shares at a price of 27/-.
Trading was very different in those days compared with today; orders were sent to London by telegram and contract notes worked out by manual multiplication and long division.
Manual transfer books and ledgers were kept and all account books were manual additions and reconciliations. It was not until the early 1960’s when Ramsey’s son Neal Crookall returned to the Island after working in London with Levy Langner & Co that a barrel peg calculator with winding handle was used to herald the start of mechanisation.
Neal, the current Chairman, joined the firm in September 1959. He worked in the business for 18 months or so and was then sent to London to gain experience before taking his membership exams in 1965.
In 1965, the firm moved to ground floor offices in Victory House, a very cold building in easterly winds. It is recalled that the auditor in those Victory House days was a Mr John Nash who was particularly sensitive to the cold temperatures and always kept his scarf and coat on whilst conducting his auditing work.
Robert Comaish joined the firm in 1969 and became a partner in 1979. In the early 1970’s, the firm moved again to refurbished offices at 14D Athol Street. Market news was relayed by Extel ‘ticker tape’ which was placed in long sheets in the reception area. Lots of clients used to congregate throughout the day to read the latest company news and announcements. Nervous ladies venturing into the reception area were frequently unsure if they had found the stockbrokers offices or not, as the sight of all the assembled men was more akin to a bookies’ premises. Technology was creeping in with electronic calculators the size of portable typewriters being used for the first time. They were too expensive to buy in those days and so a leasing arrangement had to be entered into. Staff members had increased to around twelve.
In the late 1970’s, the firm moved again to 25 Athol Street and an Olivetti mechanical card system replaced the hand written ledgers. Stock Exchange technology and regulation was moving ahead. Communication terminals were placed in offices of all firms trading through London, monthly returns, capital adequacy and regular inspections were introduced. Ramsey Crookall himself died in 1982 and will long be remembered as founder of the present business, for his sense of humour and unflappable approach in times of stress. The present Directors remember that when Mr Ramsey was in the office, absolutely no business was to be conducted after 4.30 in the afternoon. This rule imposed some difficulties on the young dealing team who were reluctant to turn business away. On a number of occasions clients had to be smuggled on and off the premises.
In the early 1980’s the longer-serving members of our staff, to whom we are indebted, recall a bomb scare incident. Athol Street was cleared as the police had received a threat of a bomb in the financial centre of Douglas. All offices were evacuated with firemen insisting that every person leave their buildings. Border TV were filming the street scene. However, the Dealing Room at number 25 Athol Street was particularly busy trading; the dealers steadfastly and stubbornly remained on site. The motto “the client always comes first” was being tested to the limit. Needless to say the bomb scare proved to be a hoax.
David Harding joined the firm in 1972 and became a partner in 1986. 1986 was also the year of “Big Bang”. Stock Exchange Members lost their monopoly and outside firms like banks and other financial institutions were permitted to buy into Stock Exchange Broker and Stock Jobbing firms. During this period and since then, discussions have taken place with several London broking firms and other financial institutions but ultimately it was decided to row our own course and remain independent. In all the turmoil, there was one big advantage, in that it became possible to deal directly with Jobbers (now called market makers) thus eliminating the London agent charge and reducing costs for clients. The fixed rate of commissions no longer applied and larger deals became negotiable.
The current CEO and granddaughter of Ramsey, Joanna Crookall, joined the firm in October 1987. As a fresh-faced graduate she was looking forward to the excitement of the start of a new career but was somewhat unprepared for the events of her second week. Monday 19th October 1987 saw billions of pounds wiped off worldwide Stock Markets, prompted by the announcement of worse-than-expected US trade figures and the response by US Secretary of the Treasury, James Baker, who indicated that the sliding dollar needed to decline further. This caused a world panic as fears of the likely impact of a US recession were voiced by the major industrialised countries. Between 19th and 23rd October, the New York Stock Exchange fell by 33%, the London Stock Exchange FTSE100 Index by 25%, the European index by 17% and Tokyo by 12%. Despite this ominous start Joanna persevered in her role as accounts assistant and went on to sit the Securities Institute Diploma examinations gaining Membership in 1990 and being appointed a Director in 1991.
During the 80’s and 90’s, the current Managing Director, David Harding oversaw the company’s involvement in the UK Privatisation programme promoted by Margaret Thatcher’s, Conservative Government. This opened the doors to popular share ownership, and Ramsey Crookall was one of the very few firms selected throughout the UK to coordinate applications on behalf of individual investors.
Patrick, grandson of Ramsey, joined in 1996 and is currently responsible for share trading in the dealing room and holds the role of Finance Director. In September 1997, the firm moved to its present premises at Securities House, 38/42 Athol Street where the latest satellite and digital communications equipment has been installed. Office hours start at 7.30am and market trading in London takes place between 8.00am and 4.30pm although orders are placed with American, Far Eastern and Australian firms for over-night trading. Patrick’s brother, Simon joined the firm in 2013. Simon had previously founded and sold successful internet ventures, Gumtree.com and Slando.com, and is looking to use technology to improve the way the firm communicates and services the needs of existing and new clients.
The firm remains family owned and managed, and in its third generation. In March 2012 Ramsey Crookall picked up the prestigious Wealth Manager of the Year at the City of London Annual Awards, and a year later on 21st March 2013, Neal Crookall was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award for services to the Industry. The award was presented by the Rt Hon Lord (Norman) Lamont, former Chancellor of Exchequer, and Brian Winterflood, President of Winterflood Securities, at the Guildhall in London.