The Goodbody name has been part of Ireland’s economic story for centuries. From the Goodbody family’s earliest ventures in milling, tobacco and manufacturing, to the sophisticated financial services firm we know today, various Goodbody enterprises have made significant contributions to the country’s growth and development over the years. Here, find out more about how the Goodbody stockbroking business started and how it has become the last remaining of the original 19th century broker houses.
The story begins in Mountmellick, Co. Laois in the early 19th century. Here, the Goodbody family was part of the Quaker community, also known as the Society of Friends. In 1807, one of them, Robert Goodbody, married into the Pim family, who were successful investors in shipping, insurance, banking, mining and railways. Robert was able to branch out, with their help, by setting up a milling business in Clara, Co. Offaly. It was a great success and from here, his five surviving sons would go on to set up their own businesses, make their own investments and promote the family name and brand in Irish business circles.
Like their father, the sons enhanced the family connections and business fortunes through marriage. One of them, Marcus, married Hannah Perry, daughter of successful businessman James Perry, who had invested well in a number of businesses, including iron, railways and brewing. Hannah inherited her father’s estate in 1858, thus securing the family’s future. Marcus and Hannah’s first child was Robert Goodbody, who would go on to found the Goodbody stockbroking business.
Robert, born in 1850, was destined to work in the family milling business but he yearned for a new, more interesting and exciting challenge and opted for the Bar. Like his grandfather, he had married into the Pim family, but his father in law was not too happy with the idea of his daughter marrying a lawyer and he put pressure on Robert to give up the idea in favour of something more fitting. The Pims were not as scathing about stockbrokers as they were about lawyers so Robert, putting his mathematical abilities to good use, embarked on a financial career in stockbroking.
And so on 13th November 1874, Robert attended a meeting of the Dublin Stock Exchange when his application for a licence was approved. His first office was at 2, Leinster Chambers, now 43, Dame St. Two years later, one of Robert’s cousins, Jonathan Goodbody, decided to join him and on 26th April 1876, R&J Goodbody was formed. In 1880 they moved to 50 Dame St where the firm would stay until 1977 before moving again. By 1885, Robert Goodbody would depart Ireland for New York. R&J Goodbody was dissolved and Jonathan went into partnership with Theodore Richard Webb, a fellow Quaker. The company was renamed Goodbody & Webb.
In New York, Robert teamed up with one Charles Dow to form a new firm on Wall St called Goodbody, Glynn & Dow. Dow of course went on to found the Wall St Journal and lend his name to the famous market index. By 1891, both gentlemen went their separate ways. Robert started his own firm called Robert Goodbody & Co, which would go on to become the fifth largest brokerage in the US, before being bought out by Merrill Lynch in 1971.
Back in Dublin, Jonathan retired from Goodbody & Webb in 1928, staying on as a member of the Stock Exchange until his death in 1944 – an association with the Exchange that lasted 68 years. His son Denis succeeded him, in partnership with his cousin Jack Freeman. These men formed the next generation of partners. Denis remained a partner until 1970, having been a member of the Exchange for 58 years. Jack was chair of the Provincial Bank, which eventually joined with Munster & Leinster to form Allied Irish Banks.
In 1974, Goodbody & Webb became the first Irish firm to set up a London office. In 1976, Goodbody & Webb merged with Wilkinson & Faulkner and was renamed Goodbody & Wilkinson. The firm developed an independent research and analysis division that gave the new business a distinctive edge in the broking business. As a result, Goodbody & Wilkinson made significant inroads into the institutional and corporate world. In 1977, Goodbody & Wilkinson moved to new offices at 1, Crow St, Dublin 2, remaining close to the Stock Exchange. In 1984, Goodbody opened a branch office in Cork
In 1985, Goodbody merged with Dudgeon. Goodbody Dudgeon moved to new offices in 5 College Green in 1986 and the firm found a UK partner, James Capel, which took a 40% stake in the Dublin firm. James Capel was the broking subsidiary of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank and had the largest share of British institutional commissions. The Goodbody business was now well connected with the international institutional and corporate sector. By 1990, there was more change and the name Goodbody Stockbrokers emerged from a new alliance, this time with the purchase by AIB Capital Markets of Goodbody in April of that year.
After the economic boom and bust of the noughties, Goodbody Stockbrokers was acquired by Fexco in 2011, marking the end of Ireland’s stockbroking firms being owned by Irish banks. In 2012, the business was renamed Goodbody with a new logo suggestive of the main areas of the business. Today, Goodbody serves individuals, institutions and corporations with the broadest investment solutions in its history. In 2015, Goodbody opened an office in London for the second time in its history.
After more than 140 years of stockbroking, the name of Goodbody has endured. Of the original 70 companies listed on the Dublin Daily Stock and Share list of 1889, only one name, Bank of Ireland, has survived. Of the original 19th century brokers’ names, Goodbody is the last one standing.