Prime Brokerage - History

History

The basic services offered by a prime broker give a money manager the ability to trade with multiple brokerage houses while maintaining, in a centralized master account at their prime broker, all of the hedge fund’s cash and securities. Additionally, the prime broker offers stock loan services, portfolio reporting, consolidated cash management and other services. Fundamentally, the advent of the prime broker freed the money manager from the more time consuming and expensive aspects of running a fund. These services worked because they also allowed the money manager to maintain relationships with multiple brokerage houses for IPO allocations, research, best execution, conference access and other products.

The concept and term "prime brokerage" is generally attributed to the U.S. broker-dealer Furman Selz in the late 1970s. However, the first hedge fund operation is attributed to Alfred Winslow Jones in 1949. In the pre-prime brokerage marketplace, portfolio management was a significant challenge; money managers had to keep track of all of their own trades, consolidate their positions and calculate their performance regardless of which brokerage firms executed those trades or maintained those positions. The concept was immediately seen to be successful, and was quickly copied by the dominant bulge bracket brokerage firms such as Morgan Stanley, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs. At this nascent stage, hedge funds were much smaller than they are today and were mostly U.S. domestic long-short equities funds. The first non-U.S. prime brokerage business was created by Merrill Lynch's London office in the late 1980s. Post the 2007 - 09 financial crisis new entrants came to the market, such as HSBC with a custody-based prime brokerage offering.

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