Guest blog: A new era of collaboration between London and the regions

Thank you to everyone who joined us at TheCityUK National Conference 2021 in Bristol last month, whether in person or online. And thank you to the organisers for staging what was a hugely valuable and thought-provoking event at this critical juncture for the financial services industry. The drivers for transformation stretch from technological disruption and shifts in customer expectations to the intensifying stakeholder spotlight on your environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance.

For me, the chance to meet and speak to so many clients and colleagues from across the financial services sector over coffee and lunch was a real pleasure. However much digital technology enables us to interact virtually – and we’re indebted to it – there’s still nothing to beat engaging face-to-face. In panel sessions and breakout areas buzzing with new ideas, this was an opportunity to feel the industry pulse, learn from each other and discuss the agenda for the years ahead. I’m very much looking forward to continuing these conversations over the coming months.

Regional powerhouses

We at PwC were delighted to be the platinum sponsor of what was the first in-person TheCityUK National Conference in two years. It was also the first to take place in Bristol, following the conference in Cardiff in 2019. This reflects the growing importance of regional centres within UK financial services. Indeed, one of the key take-aways from the conference is the importance of collaboration rather than competition between London and the regions.

This collaboration is going to be vital in delivering what people in the UK want from Financial Services. Bristol’s contribution is a clear case in point. The city has built on its strong financial service base to create a world renowned centre for fintech enterprise and innovation. Partnership between FinTechs and incumbents can help accelerate digital transformation and enable the financial services sector to keep pace with changing consumer behaviour and demands.

Society’s priorities

It’s clear what society’s priorities are in areas such as diversity, green recovery and levelling up. As the conference discussions underlined, Financial Services leaders recognise their role in delivering these priorities. This point was reinforced by the policymakers and regulators speaking at the event. Indeed, the question is no longer where Financial Services needs to go, but how to get there.

The conference offered some fascinating insights into how to meet society’s expectations and succeed in what is now a whole new competitive playing field. What stood out for me was the importance of getting closer to customers to understand what they really want and directing strategy and investment accordingly. Talent is also as critical as technology. Given the pace of change within Financial Services and the wider economy, it’s important for government, educators and Financial Services organisations to work together more closely than ever to develop and harness the necessary skills.

My colleagues will be exploring the way forward in more detail in coming blogs. You can also check out the conference speeches and panel sessions here. It’s well worth the effort. And if you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog, please feel free to get in touch.

This guest blog was written by  Paul Atkinson, Head of Financial Services, West & Wales, PwC.

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