This week I attended a small dinner at which some of the most significant financial institutions in the City were represented.
Over the course of the evening, and to my surprise, it became clear that all but one of the 12 guests was an enthusiastic Brexiteer. Many of them worked at companies whose public interventions in the Brexit debate had been firmly in favour of Remain, and yet around this table there was a distinctly pro-Brexit mood.
During the referendum campaign I spoke at enough events and debates to know that plenty of City folk were planning to vote Leave. Not many, granted, but enough to remind us all that the City isn’t a homogenous mass. Nevertheless, what struck me most about this week’s dinner and discussion was the emergence of a recurring observation from the guests: Europe, they maintained, ain’t the future. If you’re interested in global markets, growth opportunities and the next big thing, their theory went, one must look well beyond the borders of Europe.
Furthermore, there was a sense that the forces set to shape the City’s future are not political – they’re technological. Maybe there was something in the wine, but this was a group of extremely experienced and well-connected City figures who had already put Brexit behind them.
The general consensus was that, in the grand scheme of things, London will survive as a dominant global financial centre. If their confidence scares you, take heart in the fact that there’s no such complacency among the City’s policy-makers and their allies in Westminster. Indeed, economist Gerard Lyons will release an important report on Monday regarding the future of the City, in which he sets out a number of practical and technical ways in which officials can ensure the City remains “on the front foot, competitive, vigilant and adaptive”.
It will be well worth a read, especially by those who think the City’s historic advantages will guarantee its future.
Londoners' ticks revealed
London’s financial services sector may power the economy but for those living in the capital there’s more to life than the Square Mile and Canary Wharf – hard as that may be to believe. Time Out’s annual City Life index (which places London as the fifth most exciting city in the world) reveals what makes Londoners tick. When asked, 85 per cent of us said we’d felt happy in the last 24 hours, with 90 per cent of city dwellers agreeing “there’s always something to do”. The average Londoner goes to the theatre 12 times a year and we rate our nightlife highly. On the downside, we top the global ranking for stress levels and have less sex than our peers in other cities. (There may be a connection between these two conditions.) We also work the longest hours and have the longest commute. The survey suggests the easiest way to find happiness is to own property, earn north of £40,000 and reduce your commute to 30 minutes – the perfect amount of time to read City A.M.
Why I'll be sticking the Turbine Hall
Now that my son has discovered the joys of crawling and climbing, we need to get him out of our house as often as possible so he can really stretch his legs. His favourite haunt is the Tate Modern, where he can exhaust himself on the vast carpeted floor. However, not every part of this institution is totally child-friendly. Take the book shop, for example, where the children’s section includes pop-up books on Marx and an illustrated guide to capitalism that shows fat bankers smashing piggy banks. I think we’ll stick to the Turbine Hall.
Xavier's Twitter game
Xavier Rolet, the former chief executive of the London Stock Exchange, was known for his intensity. I once asked him for his thoughts on Heathrow expansion and he practically drew me a map of air traffic congestion. Anyway, since leaving the LSE he’s taken to sharing his big thoughts on Twitter: from worries that global wine production has fallen far behind consumption levels, to his admiration for China’s successful experiments in quantum satellite technology. Keep tweeting, Xavier.