In the 1950s and 60s, prosperity and advertising by the finance industry lured many new investors into the stock market. Pension funds and insurance also began to put money in the market, while mutual funds provided entry for many smaller spenders to invest in securities. Technical inability to respond effectively to increased volume and the economic downturn of the 1970s "combined to create a crisis that had, by the end of 1970, forced nearly a sixth of the nation's brokerage firms out of business. Yet this crisis also opened the way for large, integrated companies, which, by the 1990s, dominated the securities industry and conducted business on a scale unimagined thirty years earlier." Economic boom had stimulated a surge in trading on Wall Street, and the computers necessary to manage the increased volume put a major financial strain on the smaller firms. Recession and inflation also created pressure toward consolidation in large companies. One common response of those firms that survived was to offer new types of products: "Companies that had confined themselves to stocks and bonds started trading commodities, currencies and options… Firms often developed entirely new lines of business, creating money-market funds and managing Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and 401(k) retirement plans." However, each reinvention called for more capital and further squeezed businesses, such that Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley Dean dominated securities by the end of the twentieth century. Still, investment increased steadily after the crisis of the seventies: "Meanwhile, the proliferation of financial services fueled the explosion of volume in securities markets, which, by the late 1990s, totaled fifty or one hundred times that of thirty years earlier."
Wyatt Wells, "Certificates and Computers: The Remaking of Wall Street, 1967 to 1971," Business History Review, 2000
page revision: 0, last edited: 07 Feb 2010 21:43