Activity update - Septmber 2021 - November 2021

An overview of activity and outcomes for members.

The autumn months have been typically busy, with work continuing to progress strongly across our strategic priorities. As well as being actively engaged in key events, including the annual Party Conferences, the Budget and COP26, we’ve also published a series of publications, continued to strengthen industry relations, collaboration and engagement with key markets, and prepared for our first major hybrid event – our 2021 National Conference, in partnership with PwC.

We have also continued to strengthen our close working with key partners such as the City of London Corporation, the major sector trade associations and the Financial Services Skills Commission. At our recent Board Strategy Day, members noted the good progress that had been made here and the better outcomes delivered as a result. Our work with the World Alliance of International Financial Centres also continues strongly. I travelled to Dubai for its recent Board meeting, and also took the opportunity to hold several bilateral meetings with members and key stakeholders around its edges.

Long-term competitiveness

Ahead of last month’s Budget and Spending Review we set out the industry’s priorities, which included a focus on tax measures, supporting the judiciary and courts system, and deepening the UK’s diplomatic and regulatory leadership with key markets around the world. We also recommended partnering with the industry to help achieve key objectives to level-up the economy and deliver on the transition to Net Zero. While we were pleased that the Chancellor announced plans to support inward investment, reduce the bank surcharge, make it easier to attract highly- skilled talent from overseas, and bolster regional investment to improve connectivity between our towns and cities, our response noted the need to still need make up ground on New York, and other centres who continue to gain market share from the UK. We will continue to engage with senior policymakers to drive forward the industry’s priorities.

In October, we published our latest immigration report, ‘Global talent mobility: Ensuring UK competitiveness one year on: our scorecard’, in collaboration with the City of London Corporation and EY, which was well received. Its purpose is to assess progress made on collective recommendations already made and set out what more needs to be done. We had good engagement with the Home Office, Department for International Trade (DIT), HM Treasury (HMT) and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) throughout the report’s development and that has continued post-launch. Damian Green MP, Bambos Charalambous MP and Peter Walsh of The Migration Observatory joined a discussion on the report during a recent webinar on the topic. We were also encouraged to see the Migration Advisory Committee support our calls in their recent recommendations to government.

International strategy

Following the significant work invested into developing our new international strategy, I am pleased to report that its launch attracted strong interest and positive feedback from key stakeholders and it generated good media coverage in UK and global outlets. The strategy is clear on how the UK can regain its status as the world’s leading international financial centre within five years, and the International Trade and Investment Group, chaired by Edward Braham of Freshfields, is now focused on implementing its recommendations, engaging with senior officials, regulators and end users in the UK and internationally.

Through our Liberalisation of Trade in Services Expert Advisory Group (LOTIS) we have continued to input into DIT-led consultations on potential future UK trade agreements, including submitting responses to consultations on FTAs with Mexico, Canada and India. We will also submit a response to a UK-GCC FTA.

We have appointed Matt Cavanagh, Group Director of Government Relations at Prudential plc, as the Chair of our ASEAN Market Advisory Group – very timely given the UK’s recent appointment as Dialogue Partner of ASEAN, the first new country in 25 years. The ASEAN Market Advisory Group (MAG) will develop a strategy for maximising the opportunities to shape the UK’s trade and investment policy in the region.

Our work on the India-UK Financial Partnership (IUKFP) continues at pace following the 11th bilateral Economic & Financial Dialogue (EFD) in September, where it was given a renewed mandate from HMT and the Ministry of Finance in India. Our Japan MAG is working closely with HMT to share insight on the regulatory issues the industry faces in the lead up to the UK-Japan Financial Dialogue and the inaugural Regulatory Forum between the two sides. We continue to work closely with the Swiss financial and related professional services industry to support HMT and the State Secretariat for International Finance in Switzerland in their ongoing negotiations to deliver a comprehensive mutual recognition agreement for financial services.

Regions and nations

Our 2021 National Conference, in partnership with PwC, took place on 16 November in Bristol and online – our first major hybrid event. Also kindly supported by Marsh and Hargreaves Lansdown, we had very strong interest from delegates to attend the event in person with around 170 attending across the day. Alongside an opening address from Sir Adrian, our keynote speakers included the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen MP; Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves MP; Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Neil O’Brien MP; and Head of FCA Scotland and Lead on Regional Engagement, Maggie Craig. We also had a great line-up of speakers who joined our panels on innovation and transformation across the regions and nations, driving a sustainable recovery and diversity and inclusion.
Work is well progressed on our annual ‘Enabling growth across the UK’ report, which evaluates the industry’s contribution to the regions and nations of the UK. It will include policy recommendations for growth, including in data, skills, sustainability and devolution, and be launched later this month at an event with Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands.

Trust and reputation

After hosting virtual fringe events last year, we were back in-person for this year’s Labour and Conservative Party Conferences. Both events focused on the industry’s role in the recovery, with a strong focus on the recommendations from our ‘A roadmap for economic recovery’ report. We also co-hosted the 1922 Committee Drinks Reception at the Conservative Party Conference, which saw us share the stage with the Chancellor.

Following the launch of the Government’s Life Sciences Vision in July this year, it convened a Life Sciences Scale-Up Taskforce to drive progress on how Life Science companies can start, grow, and scale-up in the UK. I was very pleased to be invited by the Secretary of State for BEIS to join the Taskforce and to co-lead work on access to finance with Steve Bates, CEO at The UK BioIndustry Association (BIA) and Nigel Wilson, CEO at Legal and General Group. We are working closely with BIA and PwC, who is kindly leading the project management of the work, interviewing representatives from across the industry about the barriers and proposed solutions. These will be presented to the Secretary of State in December.

In response to the FCA / Bank of England / Prudential Regulation Authority consultation on Diversity and Inclusion, we made clear the importance of enhancing diversity and inclusion (D&I) within the industry, while also reflecting concerns around mandating targets. We stressed the need to ensure that terminology used by regulators is clear and that their final approach is proportionate and recognises the challenges on data collection.

Last month we published our biennial Total Tax Contribution research, prepared by PwC, which estimates the contribution of UK legal and accounting activities to the UK public finances and shows the valuable contribution of these sectors. Our final two economic reports of the year, both well-established annual updates on UK legal services and key facts about the UK as an international financial centre, are in train and will be published in the coming weeks.

Sustainability

At the beginning of the month, we partnered with the Green Finance Institute and City of London Corporation to host an event at their ‘Green Horizon Summit’ at COP26. Our event, ‘Partnering for change: the enabling role of financial and professional services’, showcased best practice examples of how the industry is supporting clients as they transition to Net Zero. We also took part in a panel hosted by the City of London Corporation at Mansion House to discuss the ‘Green Global Playbook’ being developed out of COP26 and how our industry can contribute.

We launched a report on Sustainable Digital Finance in partnership with Clifford Chance which set out the need for the UK to harness the benefits that technology can bring to accelerate the availability and use of green and sustainable finance. We continue to work on our forthcoming green finance report, supported by BNP Paribas, and with data provided by Refinitiv, which will be published early next year.

Miles Celic, Chief Executive Officer