Chairman’s Address for TheCityUK Annual Conference 2021

The following address was given by Sir Adrian Montague, TheCityUK Leadership Council Chairman, to TheCityUK Annual Conference 2021 on 15 June 2021.

Good morning, everyone.

First of all, thank you for joining us today for TheCityUK Annual Conference 2021. We’ve all got used to virtual meetings and events over the past year or so, but, like everyone I speak to, I am very much looking forward to having meetings in person again in the coming weeks and months.

I would also like to thank our conference partner, Citadel Securities, for their support. As well as our gold partners, PA Consulting and Phoenix Group.

Isn’t it heartening that the backdrop for this conference is one of greater optimism than when I addressed our National Conference last November?

Of course, there are huge challenges ahead but, notwithstanding all these new variants of Covid‐19, the economy is reopening and, as a nation, we are building good momentum as we begin to emerge out of the pandemic.

And, I think it’s fair to say that, while we are poised for what is projected to be the fastest economic growth in 70 years, the backdrop to that recovery is one which will not be quickly or easily forgotten.

The personal and economic sacrifices that have had to be made during the pandemic are quite without precedent. It has simply been an extraordinary year.

Not to mention that, at the same time, the country has been navigating a fundamental restructuring of its relationship with the European Union, its closest economic and trading partner.. A relationship that will take some time to re‐form and settle into its new shape.

The last few years have, as ever, been a time of change. One unarguable impact of Covid is that technological trends that might have taken a decade or more to become established have become common place in weeks. And while our industry did its bit to support customers and businesses through tumultuous times, it is also clear that people across the country are rightly asking questions about the role of business.

Questions such as:

  • How do we support the recovery?
  • How do executives and boardrooms better reflect the society we serve?
  • And, how do we play our part in tackling climate change?

…to name just a few.

TheCityUK has started a debate on these questions through the recent launch of our Roadmap for Recovery report.

But new challenges require new perspectives. Our industry has changed a great deal since I began my career in the City in the early 1970s – today it is stronger and more dynamic, and global, not just international.

Forty years ago, the debate on sustainability, diversity, and stakeholder capitalism were either in their infancy or non‐existent. Today they are front and centre.

As a result of all of these developments, I think we can safely predict another period of great change ahead.

Against this backdrop, I have established the Next Generation Leadership Council to bring together some of the rising stars from across the financial and related professional services ecosystem.

The choices we make today will shape the industry that they inherit when they reach senior leadership positions. And so, it felt right to get their perspectives and, critically, their challenge and contributions to our thinking and ideas.

The Next Generation Leadership Council has only been up and running for around eight months, but I’ve been tremendously inspired by its members’ enthusiasm, passion and clarity about the issues that matter most to them in relation to the industry’s future growth and success.

They have pressed us to recognise:

  • the urgency to increase the momentum in pursuing opportunities of green finance and for the industry to play a more proactive role in tackling climate change
  • the need for us to keep on the front foot in terms of innovation, technology and customer experience
  • and the importance of deepening trust with our customers, enhancing our reputation with stakeholders, and ensuring we adapt to remain relevant and attractive to people into the future as a great industry in which to work and develop.

As well as getting involved in the work we are taking forward at TheCityUK with colleagues across the industry, they are also looking at how they can advance these agendas, adding their own perspectives and thinking to the mix. It is very exciting. And, with their challenge and fresh ideas, we will all continue to seek out the opportunities of tomorrow.

I have every confidence that they will push us to be better and bolder in delivering on these key agendas and ensuring that the UK remains at the forefront of financial and professional innovation globally.

The Next Generation Leadership Council, in many ways, embodies the spirit of innovation that has kept our industry successful over decades, as I have seen first‐hand many times in all the years that I have worked in it. That spirit of innovation, together with continuing to put customers and communities first, and a business environment that must remain open and accessible, all these things will be at the heart of ensuring that the UK remains a world‐leading, international financial centre. More than anything, we must simply be bold in seizing the tremendous opportunities ahead.

I hope you enjoy listening to our expert line up of speakers delve into these important issues across the day. I am very grateful to them for giving us their time. I am sure you will enjoy their contributions.

Thank you.