Here's an ominous glimpse of just how unprofitable the traditional commission-driven securities business has become: a New York firm with 100 employees and $45 million in annual revenue just shut down.
WJB Capital squeezed just $221,000 out of its $45 million in commissions and fees back in 2010. Last year's stats aren't available yet -- and now probably never will be -- but it's likely their margins were just too thin to handle a downturn in trading volume.
The firm owed at least $11 million to employees and other creditors and was paying up to 25% just to manage its debt.
CEO Craig Rothfeld says they couldn't raise capital to keep going. It's not clear whether they looked into selling off the firm, but it's clear that nobody bought it.
As a pure trading firm, there was no AUM in custody, so clients aren't stranded. They just need to find other relationships.
We might see a lot more of this in 2012.