© 2017

The Origins of Asset Management from 1700 to 1960

Towering Investors


Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Finance book series (PSHF)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xv
  2. Nigel Edward Morecroft
    Pages 1-11
  3. Nigel Edward Morecroft
    Pages 13-54
  4. Nigel Edward Morecroft
    Pages 55-101
  5. Nigel Edward Morecroft
    Pages 103-142
  6. Nigel Edward Morecroft
    Pages 143-189
  7. Nigel Edward Morecroft
    Pages 191-219
  8. Nigel Edward Morecroft
    Pages 309-328
  9. Back Matter
    Pages 329-343

About this book


This book explores the origins and development of the asset management profession in Britain as a distinct activity within financial services, independent of banks and stockbrokers. Specifically, it identifies the main individuals and institutions after 1868 who established the profession. The book draws a distinction between banks (short-term deposit-taking) and asset management (an investment service with longer-term objectives). It explains why some banks fail but asset management businesses generally do not. It argues that asset management has been socially useful and has had a beneficial impact on the development of securities markets by offering choices to savers as an alternative to banks, improving the efficiency of capital allocation, re-cycling excess savings productively and enabling a range of investors - from institutions to individuals - to benefit from thoughtful, long-term investing.


Financial history Banking Investments Capital markets John Maynard Keynes Philip Rose Robert Fleming George Booth Ian Fairbairn George Ross Goobey Scottish Asset Management Institutional Investments Unit Trusts Pension Funds Philanthropy in asset management

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.EdinburghUK

About the authors

Nigel Edward Morecroft is a former asset management professional having spent most of his working life in institutional asset management. Previous appointments have included Partner at Baillie Gifford & Co. and Director at Foreign & Colonial Asset Management, having started his career at Wood Mackenzie & Co. Typically in his capacity as a trustee, Nigel currently applies his extensive experience in investments to a number of charities including the Charities Official Investment Funds (COIF) where he is a Director. He is also a Trustee and Member of the University Court at the University of St Andrews, UK.

Bibliographic information

Industry Sectors
Finance, Business & Banking


“Like Bayesian statisticians, political leaders or school teachers—or any other group with a history—we can hope to modify our current reality, but only incrementally. So, if we wish to know where we are and where we are heading, we would be wise to recognize and understand where we have been and where we have come from. With considerable skill, Nigel Morecroft—himself a leading practitioner of the investment profession, a partner in a great Scottish firm, and a talented writer—has carefully researched the history of the investment discipline and its leading practitioners to create this highly engaging study of the investment profession-cum-business. Every serious practitioner will want to enjoy a few hours of interesting reading with this genial history of the United Kingdom’s most successful investment firms and their impact on the global profession and business.” (Charles D. Ellis, Winning the Loser’s Game & Index Revolution)

“In this comprehensive and well-researched work, Morecroft analyses how key individuals, technology, and the political backdrop combined to create the asset management business we know today. Actuaries will be particularly interested to see how issues of current interest, such as illiquidity premium, were already being debated more than150 years ago, and hopefully we can all learn something from the mistakes and successes of these pioneers.” (Malcolm Campbell, Immediate Past President, International Actuarial Association)

“This is a wide ranging and deeply thoroughly researched study on the origins of professional fund management in the UK over the last three hundred years. It shows how most of the issues facing the sector today were tackled and surmounted in the past with many lessons for current market participants. Idiosyncratic investors and innovators are brought to life and their contributions made clear and the social value of good fund management highlighted.” (Jeremy Tigue, Fund Manager of Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust from 1997 to 2014)

“Many overlook the value of keeping the past in mind when investing – the point is that market metrics move across a vastly wider range than most assume. Given that I expect more political and economic change in the next three years than we have experienced over the last three decades, Nigel Morecroft’s book is very prescient. After Brexit, an appreciation of the patterns and structures of the past will greatly improve our perspective as to what the future might bring.” (Gervais Williams, Senior Executive Director of  Miton Group UK, Awarded Fund Manager of the Year by What Investment? 2014)

“A lost history has been discovered in this excellent book by Nigel Morecroft. A book blending grounded research with some illuminating stories covering the development of the asset management world. Themes uncovered as relevant to-day – for example ethical conduct and putting the client first- and also examples of poor decision making and bad practice. An essential read for both reflective practitioners and those teaching and researching the subject who need a comprehensive understanding of context.” (Professor Paul Palmer, Cass Business School)

“This is a thorough and highly readable account of some of the main institutions and individuals influential in the development of the British asset management industry over two and a half centuries. It deserves a place on the bookshelf of anyone with an interest in financial history.” (David Chambers, Reader in Finance, Judge Business School. Cambridge University)

“In many ways, it is remarkable that so little real history has been written about an industry that is so important to millions of households in the UK and across the world.  While there has been the occasional work, notably Peter Stormonth Darling’s fascinating and entertaining City Cinderella, the history of the UK asset management industry usually appears as a sub-section of wider accounts about the evolution of the modern financial system.  This gap in the literature has, until recently at least, been mirrored in a wider public profile that is less developed than it should be. The Origins of Asset Management is thus doubly welcome, both as a significant sectoral contribution to the history of financial services, and more widely as a reminder of how much asset management matters, to individuals and the broader economy.” (Jonathan Lipkin, Director, Policy, Strategy and Research, The Investment Association)