PRODUCING a list of the top 10 brokerages in Hong Kong does not sound a hard task. A quick call to the exchange, some calls to the winners and losers and 10 minutes tapping on the keyboard is all the job would be expected to take. But the private club that poses as a public utility does not release this information. And even the macho brokerages seem to get awfully coy when asked to lay their cards on the table - if that is the correct metaphor. The exchange could say that knowing brokerage turnover does not tell us anything. It could be argued that the figures are highly volatile and likely to be affected by such vagaries as a single listing or placement which could drive a broker up to the top of the list for a week or a month only to sink back down. It could also be pointed out that most brokerages in Hong Kong probably would want their market share printed to four significant places, most of them zeros after the point. But after a year of falling markets, punters might be starting to wonder - is my broker churning my shares? That is the serious reason for revealing more details of individual brokers dealing. Bona fide customers ought to be given all the information that can possibly be given without damaging the competitive position of their brokerage. And if all turnovers are revealed, then how can any one firm be disadvantaged? Right now, it is practically certain that some brokers are selling client shares without permission and buying them back later to pocket the difference. The Stock Exchange and the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) are of course the first line of defence against this. But freedom of information is a tool no less valuable when it comes to sorting out the truth for oneself. The client also gets a better picture of the broker's business. Is this firm really the right one for you? Is all the business with one punter? Is the rise and fall of turnover too volatile for comfort? Could there be a conflict of interests? In other areas of financial services, life is easier. With Hongkong Bank for example, we all have a very good idea of its financial strength and reach - if only by counting the branches. It is harder to tell with a broker who may just be a voice on the phone and an entry in the SFC registry. This information is not available because the members of the exchange, which is supposed to be run as a public utility, do not choose to release it. Then, they should be forced to by Michael Cartland, Secretary for Financial Services.