As those of you who braved the elements last Saturday will know, there’s a new lord mayor in town. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to take over from Fiona Woolf in this 900 year old office.
It is a big job, a big challenge, but one I am determined to meet. One of the biggest elements of my role is to be the salesman for UK plc, supporting the Prime Minister as he aims to create a new golden era for British exports, using the momentum of the London Olympics and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games: “deals done, contracts won, business boosted and jobs created.”
A big part of this involves advocating the City’s unrivalled expertise in skills and services. This expertise not only allows us to excel in our day jobs, but also gives us a fantastic opportunity to give something back. My Lord Mayor’s Appeal this year focuses on six words: creating wealth, giving time, supporting people.
Almost everybody knows about the City’s role in creating this country’s wealth, but fewer know how many City workers also give their valuable time. To offer just one example, the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards, the oldest Corporate Social Responsibility Awards of their kind, helped business people volunteer 166,000 hours to help 200,000 Londoners with everything from legal advice to marketing and IT.
This is just one part of a very big, very valuable volunteering picture, which is acting to close the skills gap in the UK. The City is hugely invested in closing this skills gap – back in the day, it founded Imperial College, one of the top three universities in the world, and it hasn’t slowed down since. City & Guilds still accredit 2m students and apprentices every year.
Volunteering can also be a cornerstone of good business, representing responsible capitalism. Before I became lord mayor, I worked as the chairman of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment, and I saw the positive effect that nearly 900 volunteers, drawn from 40,000 members, have: devising and developing exams to help bring our industry closer to the ethical ideal. The same is true for charities like Scope and Mencap – the main beneficiaries of this year’s Lord Mayor’s Appeal – which rely on volunteers to support the people who need it most.
London is a global financial centre. It supports 2m jobs in financial and professional services across the UK, and exports goods and services across the world. In fact, financial services activity in the UK generates 12.6 per cent of the country’s GDP, and as lord mayor I am proud to champion that at home and overseas. But I also want to make this year the year of the volunteer – celebrating the City workers who create wealth, give time and support people. After all, the position of lord mayor is itself a voluntary one, and I know from my forebears how richly rewarding it is. I look forward to supporting the City this year.