Chairman's Address for TheCityUK National Conference 2021

16 November 2021

Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us for this year’s National Conference – both to those of you who are at the event in person and those who are attending virtually.

I would also like to warmly thank our conference partner, PwC, for their support, as well as our gold partners, Marsh and Bristol-based Hargreaves Lansdown.

After such a challenging 18 months, it is really heartening to see your enthusiasm to get back together, to re-affirm old relationships, and to create new ones. I am just sorry that I can’t be with you today, but I do look forward to seeing many of you in person in the near future.

Now, throughout history, pandemics have often acted as accelerators of trends in society and the economy. Today, we’ll be discussing the industry's role in driving the progress and transformation that we are seeing across the country, covering important issues like innovation, the levelling-up agenda, a sustainable recovery, and diversity and inclusion.

It is very fitting that we are in Bristol. Not only is it a city with a long and proud history as a centre for insurance, legal services and banking, but it is also one with a burgeoning and innovative FinTech sector. And the industry is very active in helping to bolster this expertise. In Bristol, for example, Bloomberg and Deloitte have supported the University of the West of England’s Master of Science course in Financial Technology. I know similar initiatives are also in place right across the country.

This underscores the fact that the industry is not just a London success story; it is also a national one. Two thirds of the 2.3 million people employed in financial and related professional services are based outside London. And those jobs are highly skilled and well paid.

The industry is an engine for growth and makes a significant contribution to economies and communities across the country. It is also the UK’s biggest exporting industry, with half of its exports coming from outside London.

These are just some of the reasons why the industry is at the heart of efforts to accelerate the economic recovery and support the delivery of the government’s levelling-up agenda.  

There can be few people who would disagree with the premise of levelling-up, especially against the backdrop of Brexit and the pandemic. But the concept needs stronger policy foundations and clear and effective measures of success. There are high expectations that the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will deliver these – and some real outcomes. The industry is keen to play its part.

Our network of City Chairs based across many of the UK’s major financial hubs are central to our own work on this agenda. They will be helping to take forward many of the proposals we set out earlier this year in our ’A roadmap to economic recovery’ report. This includes working with local leaders to shape their recovery strategies.

And, of course, the regulators have their part to play. Earlier this year the Financial Conduct Authority committed to opening several regional offices across the country. This will have been welcome news for many firms based outside London, and something which TheCityUK has long advocated.

I am therefore pleased we will be hearing from the FCA’s Maggie Craig later today, who I’m sure will touch on this in her remarks.

Another issue on today’s agenda is climate change – one of the most urgent challenges of our age. Our industry is at the forefront of the collective efforts of government and the private sector in tackling climate change, and we have called on government to work in partnership with the industry to achieve the UK’s 2050 Net Zero target.

This will require transformation across the economy at a level not seen since the industrial revolution, and the mobilisation of an estimated £90bn of private capital.  It also needs global collaboration to mitigate risk and create investment opportunities at speed and at scale.

There is good momentum behind green finance and strong ambitions, but there is still much more to be done, and significant challenges remain. The lack of common definitions and classification systems, unaligned incentive structures, and no clear agreement on the right targets and goals are just a few of those.  

As the industry innovates to succeed into the future, attracting and retaining diverse talent is essential. We have seen good progress across the industry to ensure that employment is more diverse, equitable and inclusive, there is still some way to go to ensure that it is truly representative of the people and communities it serves.

There are some brilliant minds working hard to deliver on these agendas. We’re lucky to have some of those on TheCityUK Next Generation Leadership Council – a tremendous group of dynamic potential future industry leaders. They are tasked to contribute fresh perspectives and creative thinking to our work. It is also great to see them represented here today. During my many years in this industry, I have found that there is nothing more invigorating than discussing issues or ideas with people who have different or alternative perspectives, or who approach challenges from new angles.

We are confident, but not complacent, about the industry’s ongoing success and competitiveness. Working with government – local and national, regulators and local economic partners, it’s critical that we are nimble and innovative, forward looking, and dynamic. We welcomed the Chancellor’s vision and strategy that he set out earlier this year and look forward to continuing to contribute to the reforms needed to make that vision a reality.

We have some tremendous speakers today, but please don’t think that this conference is a one-way broadcast. Whether you are in Bristol or joining virtually, I encourage you all to engage in the debates and ask questions of our panelists.

I hope you enjoy listening to our expert line up of speakers delve into these important issues across the day.

Thank you.