Stephen Cranston Writer & columnist

None of the firms that made Wall Street the centre of world finance had the prestige of the House of Morgan. JP Morgan (it was a person before it was a bank) at one point acted as the lender of last resort to the US federal government and many countries abroad. The US government, which considered Morgan too powerful, split it into JP Morgan the retail bank and Morgan Stanley the investment bank. In the 20th century the German Jewish dominated Goldman Sachs achieved top tier status with creativity, which made up for what they lacked, relative to Morgan, in muscle.

In contrast Merrill Lynch, dominated by Irish Americans, was superb at sales. It became the most successful of the wirehouses, with a national network of brokers who would sell shares to doctors and dentists in towns such as Peoria, Illinois. In effect they played the role now played by the financial adviser, though perhaps closer in spirit to those Old Mutual and Sanlam agents that specialise in investment...

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