The French Stockbrokers between the Market and The State: a Lost Profession
IREBS European Business School Paris, France
IRISES Paris-Dauphine Paris, France
In less than three decades, one of the defining institutional symbols of French national sovereignty, the Paris Stock Exchange has been gradually demutualised and then transformed into a subsidiary of a holding company incorporated under Dutch law: Euronext NV. This private and international operator listed on the markets it operates controlled the exchanges of Amsterdam, Brussels, Lisbon and the London-based derivatives exchange LIFFE, when, in 2006, it entered into a merger process, finalised in spring 2007 with the New York Stock Exchange.
During the eighties, a closed corporation of privileged and monopolistic quasi-civil servants running family businesses, the Compagnie des Agents de Change and their charges, had exploded. By the dawn of the nineties, family-run brokerage businesses and individual memberships to a sui generis long-established guild with old boys' club practices were replaced by two kinds of market-oriented capital firms providing distinct and complementary financial services. Since then, investment firms have replaced the poorly-capitalised charges of the agents de change. On the other hand, a computerised regulated market run by a for-profit entreprise has replaced the clubbish and mutualised Bourse and is now to cope with alternative trading facilities, internalising intermediaries and third-country stock exchanges, all competing to attract trading-orders flows from investment services providers. This paper offers a brief genesis of a lost professional group, which bargained its dismantlement when its jurisdiction, the financial intermediation at the Paris stock exchanges, by large the first French financial market, became to big for its members.
The perspective developped hereafter, intermingles sociology of professions and field theory to take into account the structuring effects of national socio-economic histories on these strongly transnationalised and yet nationally-rooted financial institutions and agents that are stock exchanges and investment firms. If financial markets characterise the contemporary capitalisms as deregulation stands for a defining policy of neoliberalism, then financial deregulation, of which the end of the Compagnie was a defining moment, crystallises and reveals the very relations between State and Market that neoliberal agenda acutalises.