FORGET the FTSE 100 – it’s the companies further down the stock market that will lift the country of recession, says Grant Thornton partner Philip Secrett, who last night called on the government to abolish stamp duty for Aim- and Plus-listed firms.

Secrett was addressing a roomful of the City’s small-cap businesses, the fund managers that invest in them, and one large dinosaur skeleton at the Grant Thornton Quoted Company Awards at the Natural History Museum.

Never mind Davos – this was the “first essential event” of the business year, said organiser Vitesse Media, and the only one that rewards high-achieving listed companies quoted south of the FTSE 350 down to Aim and Plus.

“The world is entering a period of slower growth, and so we desperately need to bring capital to our small businesses, because these are the companies generating the best returns,” awards judge Gervais Williams, the managing director of MAM Funds, told The Capitalist between debates with presenter Naga Munchetty of BBC World.

“Many fund managers prefer to focus on the large companies – but we are getting close to a turning point where that will reverse.”

Joining Williams on the top table were fellow judges Andrew Buchanan of Octopus Investments, Andy Brough of Schroders (pictured left with Ishbel Macpherson, chairman of Speedy Hire), and Giles Hargreave of Hargreave Hale, who abstained from voting himself Investor of the Year for his “consistent returns” in small-cap stocks.