A hot, summer day in late July finds the boss of an interdealer brokerage in London in a contemplative mood. "If you are a brokerage these days, then what are you actually offering?" he asks. "I'm just a good guy and I buy you a beer? That might have worked in the 1980s, but the banks just don't trade as much as they used to."
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That question is the central one facing a besieged industry. Brokers' traditional business of intermediating tr