During my two decades in the financial services industry, I always enjoyed the important annual events that bring the industry together. It was great to be back at The City UK’s conference yesterday, speaking this time in my new job as the government minister responsible for financial services policy.
I’m proud of the sector’s strength. It employs 2m people, contributes about a sixth of the UK’s economic output and around 12 per cent of tax receipts, and provides finance, expertise and advice to millions of people and companies.
As I said yesterday, this industry has a leading role to play in securing our economic recovery. For while many bad things happened in the financial sector in the past, when the UK’s financial services do well, the UK does well.
Delivering for customers should be at the heart of the sector’s role. Financial services oil the wheels of the economy, helping hard-working people achieve their aspirations at every stage of life – whether that’s saving for their first home, taking out a mortgage, buying a car, or saving and investing for the future.
The chancellor’s pensions reforms are a classic example, based on the principle that the money people save over their working lives should be theirs to do with what they want.
People approaching retirement can now access their pension pot how they want – in flexible payments, taking some out and leaving the rest for later, as a regular income, or as cash.
And we are also looking at how we can make it easier for consumers to transfer their pension from one scheme to another.
The reform has been welcomed by consumers and industry, with over 60,000 people taking advantage of the new flexibilities.
We are determined to move on from the financial crisis, and focus on having the best and most competitive financial services in the world.
I want London to remain the world’s leading international financial market, and to strengthen its position as the Western hub for Asian markets like RMB, rupees, and Islamic finance.
We have a competitive economy, highly skilled people, fantastic complementary services, and a globally respected legal system.
In the coming years, the UK should be at the cutting edge of high-growth industries like FinTech and insurance-linked securities.
Moving on from the crisis also means continuing to return the banks we bailed out to private ownership.
We’ve already recovered over £12bn from selling Lloyds, with sales continuing every day.
And the chancellor recently announced that he would begin to sell RBS in the coming months. The governor of the Bank of England said that doing this now is right for the taxpayer and the wider economy. So that is what we will do.
My vision is of a financial services sector that delivers for its customers, continues to play a leading role in securing our economic recovery, and is the best and most competitive in the world.
I’m looking forward to making it happen in my new job as the government minister responsible for financial services.