This section is from the "Everybody's Guide to Money Matters" book, by William Cotton. With a description of the various investments chiefly dealt in on the stock exchange, and the mode of dealing therein. Some account of the pitfalls prepared for the unwary, and suggestions to the cautious investor.
These companies are mostly formed for the purpose of employing their capital in the Colonies, where money commands a higher rate of interest, and can be more profitably employed than in this country.
Some of the older concerns have been successful, but of the whole number of existing companies at least one-half, judging from the price of their shares, have been failures. The difficulty with these concerns would seem to be the want of direct control, their business having chiefly to be conducted by agents who often consider their own interests before their employers'. Some of these companies appear to have advanced large sums of money on the security of land which they can neither sell nor let, and which has been abandoned by the borrower.
The shares in these trusts were at one time much sought after as an investment. The ostensible business of a trust company is to purchase shares and stocks of other concerns at favourable opportunities, and to invest widely in foreign and other companies offering good dividends, so as to average a high rate of interest. They are divided into debenture stock, preferred stock, and deferred stock. The latter has its share of the profits after the others have been satisfied, and at present three-fourths of the companies now doing business have their deferred shares at a discount. The financial collapse in Argentine, some years since, very seriously affected most of these concerns, and it is doubtful, in view of the risky nature of the business, whether they will ever come into favour again.
Under the head of Life, Fire, and Marine Insurance, these companies, as a class, have been more steadily successful than others. Most of these concerns are making large profits, and their shares command a high premium; so high, indeed, that an investment at current prices yields but a moderate rate of interest. The risks undertaken by insurance offices are enormous in extent, but the law of average by which they are conducted is so accurate that, taken in the long run, and with sufficient business maintained, misfortune is almost impossible. In all cases, however, so little is called up of the nominal amount of their shares, that a very large liability attaches to them.