Having been born in Sweden, with a Norwegian grandmother, and after visiting Finland countless times on business, my current trip to these Nordic nations almost feels like a homecoming.
Many of the topics to be discussed during this week-long trip are equally familiar. The growing global maritime industry will be one of them, and, as someone who has just begun his forty-fourth year in the business, all with the British and international shipbroking firm Clarksons Platou, I welcome this engagement. Indeed, my first formal meeting will be a working lunch with Lloyd’s of London and others, to talk about how lower oil prices might affect the rig market, the wider offshore support sector, and indeed associated services.
Later, in Helsinki, I will tell the Annual Arctic Shipping Forum that London is a world-leader in maritime services because of our ability to innovate, adapt and change. That unique reputation for quality and innovation reflects well on the whole of the UK, from maritime engineers in Glasgow or Liverpool to shipping lawyers in the City.
But we don’t know it all. There is much we can learn from other countries, whatever the stage of their development, so this trip in particular will focus on sharing and discussing best practice.
Sweden, for example, is a world leader in green finance. Today I will co-host a round table in Gothenburg to discuss that city’s landmark green bond issuances, which provided a new standard of transparent, fully-accredited green products, and to talk about how we might draw on Gothenburg’s experience to enhance the City of London’s offering in this increasingly important market segment.
Increasing access to these green financial products is a key ambition for the City of London Corporation. I will extend an invitation to Gothenburg’s mayor to discuss this subject in greater detail as part of Climate Week London later this year.
Fintech is another area of collaboration. Fintech employs over 61,000 people in the UK and the UK market is valued at over £20bn, so in Helsinki I will speak alongside Lawrence Wintermeyer, chief executive of Innovate Finance, to highlight the City’s attractiveness for fintech startups.
One topic that will dominate conversation and question-and-answer sessions throughout the visit is the upcoming EU referendum. My hosts will want to know about the campaign and will expect me to speak for the City and the wider UK business community. Their interest in entirely understandable: Nordic investors have invested billions of pounds in the UK, with the Norwegian government’s pension scheme alone investing over £50bn here. I want nothing to endanger those vital relationships. I will say that my personal view, as well as the view of the overwhelming majority of City businesses, is that the UK is better off in Europe.
My visit is now four days old. It’s great to be back in the Nordics, not just for the sake of old memories but for the sake of new opportunities. It’s a chance to forge fresh and even more valuable links with these established partners and remind ourselves how important EU countries are for our economic success.