Good evening everyone – thank you Miles for the introduction, and welcome everyone to our first Future Leaders’ Dinner.
You’re here because in some way or other, you have been identified as having a key role to play in the future of our industry and, perhaps even, of our country. That means the partnerships you forge across sectors and industries, and the knowledge and expertise you’re able to acquire, will be a real asset to your ability to lead your organisations both now and in the future.
This forum tonight is intended to provide an opportunity to build those relationships and, to learn from the experiences and knowledge of others – which is such a crucial part of development for all of us.
Before you tuck into dinner, I wanted to share a few thoughts on the challenges and opportunities facing us today.
The UK financial system is, in every sense, an ecosystem: a living, breathing network of organisations, interests and activities, that located together physically and interacting digitally comprise one of the world’s most significant centres of industry.
Uniquely, those connections have been forged through centuries of entrepreneurial activity. The Lloyd’s insurance market I represent has been issuing insurance contracts since as far back as the 1680s… while our sponsors tonight, Mayer Brown, have been providing legal services in London since 1895.
Even the building we’re meeting in this evening is the product of centuries of entrepreneurship: the Company of Plaisterers’ received its Royal Charter in 1501, when 90% of Europeans were still living in farming communities.
These are some of the ancient roots which, together over time, have created the vibrant ecosystem we’re a part of today. It’s an ecosystem that has survived and flourished through plague, fire, revolution, economic depression and world wars.
The challenges we face together today – of global pandemic; conflict in Europe; a refugee crisis; cost and availability of energy and food – feel no less threatening.
For the most part, that ecosystem has proved its resilience – adapting and thriving through a series of seismic external shocks.
But if we are to continue to be the world’s leading financial and professional services centre – while also supporting growth across the whole of the UK – our ecosystem is fit for the challenges ahead.
That means weaving into its fabric the traits that allow us to respond to difficult times. And the three traits I’d like to focus on this evening – which I think will be key to emerging stronger from the crises confronting us – are resilience, relevance and relationships.
Let me turn first to resilience.
For forty years, the economic models of liberal democracies increasingly rewarded rapid growth of top line income, market share, lean production techniques, extended supply chains, just-in-time delivery and high financial leverage.
This created huge economic wealth for as long as the world order supported globalisation and greater integration. It also brought prosperity to the financial and related professional services firms based in London and across the UK.
However, once this apparently unstoppable momentum was arrested by the unilateral actions of powerful dictators; by the discontent of many in the global population who felt left behind; by the impact of our economic model on climate change; by the risks of pandemic disease and cyber attacks, whose impact has been significantly heightened by our global inter-connectedness – the very strengths of the economic model which created prosperity have been shown to lack resilience for the challenges we face at present.
In today’s world – where a weakness in one part of the chain threatens the system as a whole – we need to take steps to ensure our organisations increase their resilience.
At the same time, our economic model needs to reward those organisations which invest in resilience and support our customers and employees through the difficult times ahead.
And individually, we need to be building our own resilience. That doesn’t just mean ‘grinning and bearing it’ as my generation was taught – it means equipping ourselves with the right training, the right management skills, and the right networks to support our own adaptability and wellbeing as leaders.
If we want to lead others, we must begin by making ourselves match-fit on both an organisational and personal level. That is what resilience is about.
But it is no use being resilient if we are not relevant.
The UK’s financial and related professional services industry has always thrived on its in-depth understanding of customers; on the quality of its advice; on its global competitiveness; and on its entrepreneurialism and innovation.
It’s encouraging to see that entrepreneurial spirit alive today, with over 2,500 FinTech companies across the country seeing the UK widely recognised as one of the world’s two leading financial innovation hubs alongside Silicon Valley.
But if these startups are to become globally relevant, there is much more to do to help them scale up, by developing skills in the workforce and providing the financing for growth. It will require continued investment from both private and public entities if we are to continue to compete globally.
Being relevant also means representing the communities we serve and operate in.
UK financial and related professional services companies employ over 2.2 million people – two-thirds of whom are outside our capital – and centres like London, Edinburgh, Manchester and Leeds, to name a few, have long been global destinations for talent.
And this gives us both an obligation and an exciting opportunity to bring in diverse perspectives and build diverse organisations.
Forums like this dinner, and TheCityUK’s Next Generation Leadership Council, are just one way we can learn from others and interact with other viewpoints – and everyone here tonight has a key role to play in building the UK’s future workforce: a workforce that must be as inclusive, diverse and dynamic as the country is itself.
In doing so, we will underpin our relevance.
A third feature of a successful ecosystem is the power of relationships.
To succeed in any undertaking – personal, professional, corporate or political – we need to bring people with us. This begins with understanding people’s needs and motivations; but it is also about building trust and inspiring people to believe that by working together we can achieve so much more than by working alone.
In most organisations, somebody somewhere has the answer to your question – a solution to your problem. If you have to create the solution by yourself, it will almost certainly be less efficient and less valuable than by harnessing the talent and expertise of others.
Networks and relationships are the key to finding that ‘someone’ who can help you do your job more effectively – and creating open, supportive and collaborative relationships across an organisation helps build a culture that attracts and retains the best talent.
When relationships are frayed, judgement is impaired. That leads to flawed decisions, like President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine based on his assessment of swift and decisive victory and a weak global response. Neither has proved true.
Closer to home, the UK’s recent economic turmoil can in part be attributed to a breakdown in trusted relationships and close dialogue between government and the business community. That dialogue is essential to maintaining success and stability in our financial ecosystem.
But recent events have also shown us what can be achieved when relationships are strong: whether cooperating to deliver global climate commitments and actions, or working to mount a globally coordinated response to the conflict in Ukraine, encompassing efforts to mitigate a humanitarian crisis, to build a comprehensive sanctions regime and, most recently, to launch a pioneering collaboration to secure grain exports from Ukraine’s ports.
It shows what’s possible when commerce, policy and civil society align in a common purpose.
While the strongest relationships are forged in times of trial; the real work must be done in the interim, when we have time and space to reflect on the values we share and the future direction of our country and organisations.
I hope that amidst the pressures and challenges of your everyday lives, tonight might be a time to develop new relationships which will prove lasting in the years to come.
I believe the three themes of resilience, relevance and relationships will underpin the success of leadership for the next generation. It is not an exhaustive list and you may want to add other themes of your own to the list over dinner, just as long as they begin with ‘R’…
All of you are right at the heart of an ecosystem which has a huge role to play in the world’s prosperity and in this country’s. It’s an exciting time, and all of us on TheCityUK Leadership Council are incredibly supportive of the work you’re doing in your respective fields.
Later on this evening, we will hear from Dominic Griffiths, Managing Partner of our sponsors tonight, Mayer Brown – who will introduce our speaker, Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North and Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
There will also be concluding remarks from Emma Rachmaninov, a member of the Next Generation Leadership Council and Partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
They will surely provide further food for thought.
In the meantime though, thank you for listening and I hope you enjoy your dinner.