Sir Adrian Montague, Chairman of TheCityUK Leadership Council, delivered this speech to TheCityUK Annual Dinner at The Londoner hotel, on 10 February 2022.
Your Excellencies, my Lords, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. A warm welcome to TheCityUK’s Annual Dinner. What a pleasure it is to see so many of you here this evening – and in person, not on video!
I would also like to welcome our special guests, the Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen MP. Andrew, John, we look forward to hearing from you both shortly.
And I would like to thank our partner, Shearman & Sterling, for their generous support for this evening’s event. Barney and colleagues, you have been so gracious with your patience for this event, which I believe you had originally expected would be held in 2020. I’m glad we are finally able to do so.
Indeed, although I have been in post for more than two years, this is both my first and my last Annual Dinner as Chairman of our Leadership Council – a role I have thoroughly enjoyed, despite the very challenging circumstances bought about by the Covid pandemic that began just a few months into my term.
It does seem to be the fate of recent Chairs of TheCityUK that our tenures have begun just before the onset of major political, social or economic upheaval. Indeed, I am delighted to be joined by a number of distinguished former Board and Leadership Council Chairs this evening, including one who has travelled from Australia to be with us, good evening, John. I am sure they will recognise that experience.
I hope that Anne Richards’ tenure will be a less tumultuous once she takes office. I wish her every success when she takes over from Mark Tucker as Board Chair in June. I offer similar good wishes to Alasdair Haynes, the chair of our new Business Council.
As we look to the future, it is clear that the impacts of Covid have been profound and have changed the way we live and work. For financial and related professional services, it has certainly accelerated the changing ways in which we both serve and interact with our customers and clients.
I was very proud of how our industry quickly stepped in to help customers throughout the pandemic, doing exactly what we are here to do: supporting people in their daily lives, helping them to protect against risk, securing their homes and businesses, saving for the future, and providing expert advice. This was a crucial moment for us to demonstrate to everyone the enormous benefits our industry brings to people and businesses across the UK.
As I am sure most of you in this room would agree, our industry is a national strategic asset.
We employ over 2.3 million people in highly-skilled jobs right across the UK – around one in every 14 jobs. Two thirds of those are outside London, with major financial hubs in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, and Manchester.
We are well placed to support the government’s Levelling-up agenda and keen to play our part. Indeed, our industry is perhaps the key enabler to closing the productivity gap, delivering quality jobs nationally, helping fund new businesses, and enabling existing businesses to invest and grow.
And at a time when the UK is establishing itself as a newly independent trading power, it is important to remember that ours is also the biggest net exporting industry, running a trade surplus of over £79bn, half of which is generated in towns and cities outside London. We contribute nearly 10% of the UK’s total economic output and are the country’s largest taxpayer.
Now, all these numbers emphasise the industry's economic contribution, but what of our broader social contribution?
How quickly are we making progress to be more reflective of the communities we serve, to ensure that our firms have greater diversity of thought, more inclusivity and are embracing greater social mobility?
I know there is a lot of good work being done on all counts across the industry to redress and make progress on these important agendas. Indeed, the Lord Mayor has a sharp focus on driving social mobility. So, I was very pleased to see that in the latest Social Mobility Employer Index, 30 out of the top 50 employers for social mobility are in this industry – seven in the top 10.
Of course, this just scratches the surface on what is being done by firms themselves and collectively across the industry. There is certainly more still to be done, but the direction of travel is encouraging.
I often talk of our own Next Generation Leadership Council, and of the great impact it has been making since it was set up just over one year ago. They are a tremendous group of smart, forward-thinking, potential future leaders from firms across our industry. They are well plugged in to work being done across TheCityUK, and are also taking forward projects on the issues that are important to them – sustainability, tech and innovation and how the industry is perceived. If the future of our industry is in their hands and others like them, then I am very sure there will be great things to come.
Also critical to our future success is the UK’s continued competitiveness as a global financia centre,a status that gives the UK a competitive edge on the world stage.
English law and UK judicial fairness and great expertise in insurance and investment management are world renowned. We have deep and liquid capital markets. And the depth of our accounting, management consulting and financial expertise is unparalleled. These are all British soft power advantages that are all too often overlooked or under appreciated.
This industry’s ability to transform itself over the centuries and innovate has been central to its continued success. But as competition from other financial centres continues to increase, the UK’s position cannot be taken for granted. Not only do we have to continue in the areas where we lead, but also be ahead on new and emerging opportunities.
To that end, Governor, Economic Secretary, you have each been active in furthering the future success of this industry, for which we are very appreciative. I also pay tribute to the contribution of the Chancellor, who last year, set out his widely welcomed vision and ambition for the future of financial services.
It is a vision the industry shares and is keen to help deliver.
The emphasis on openness, innovation and sharpening the UK’s competitive advantage is already gathering momentum. For example, the recommendations from the Hill and Kalifa reviews are essential and should continue to be taken forward at speed.
Time is of the essence. As we set out in our own ambitious international strategy for the industry last year, while the size and volume of many of our market segments has grown, the UK has seen a decline relative to its international competitors in terms of global market share, especially to the rising centres in Asia.
Our strategy sets out how the UK can regain its position as the world-leading international financial centre. It focuses on critical areas such as making it easier and quicker to access the best global talent. Liberalising trade and securing regulatory agreements that support services trade. And becoming a global hub in areas of future demand such as data, international investment, and risk management.
Perhaps the most important area for the future is green and sustainable finance. Not only will it be a huge area of growth as households, businesses and governments look to decarbonise, but the future of generations to come depend on it.
Securing the UK’s position as the number one international financial centre will lead to more high-skilled, high-value jobs across the country, more opportunities for people to grow in their careers and more international investment for businesses in all sectors. It will put the UK at the forefront of technology and innovation and help to finance the growth of the green economy.
Perhaps more than ever before, close collaboration between industry, government and the regulators is needed to achieve these aims. There is a job for us all and there is much yet to be done to advance this important agenda.
Given TheCityUK’s role in uniting all parts of the financial and related professional services ecosystem, it is a natural place to drive these ambitions. I know the team will continue to focus on this task, in close collaboration with partners such as the City of London Corporation as well as colleagues across the trade associations.
I must take this opportunity to thank Catherine McGuinness for her commitment to this work. The closer partnership between TheCityUK and the Corporation that she has been instrumental in fostering, as well as that with the individual trade associations, maximises our collective ability to represent this crucial national asset.
It is vital that we continue to operate as more than the sum of our parts.
Despite the challenging backdrop over recent years, I remain optimistic about the future.
This industry is big, but agile, and there is a drive to enhance and compete. We must continue to work together to further these important agendas. Doing so is essential if we are to attract the best talent, lead in areas of future growth, and continue to be a successful industry that people are proud to work in. And that position as a global hub for talent needs to be matched by agile, innovative world-class regulation and a globally competitive tax regime.
Governor, Minister, we look forward to working with you in partnership to realise these shared ambitions. And thank you to you both for your continued open and transparent engagement with us all.
As my term nears its end, I would like to say what an honour it has been to represent this industry in my role as Chairman of the Leadership Council – and of the Next Generation Leadership Council. I would like to thank my colleagues on these groups, and my fellow Chairman, Mark Tucker, for their support, and of course Miles and the team at TheCityUK.
I wish you all an enjoyable evening.
It is now my great pleasure to hand over to the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen MP.