On the surface, the UK and America share many similarities.
Language and culture align our two nations, despite the transatlantic barrier that separates us.
Likewise, our financial services sectors, London and New York, are two of the most established hubs in the world.
Recent data suggests that the US accounted for 21 per cent of the UK’s total financial services exports, ranked at $23bn in 2016 – an increase of almost 40 per cent since 2010.
But in recent years, the UK and the US have come to share an even deeper bond: politically, we are both experiencing change that hasn’t been witnessed in many years.
Brexit is often described as one of the most significant political challenges to the UK since the Second World War. Unravelling the UK from a relationship it has been part of for almost 50 years is no small feat – it is a process that will ultimately re-establish the UK’s identity and indeed prominence on the international stage.
Across the Atlantic, President Trump’s “America First” policy is playing a central role.
Within months of assuming the presidency, he withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and his tax reforms now favour homegrown businesses rather than international competitors who are domiciled in North America. Most recently we saw Trump impose trade tariffs on the EU, Canada, and Mexico.
It is perhaps no surprise that many of these issues were brought up during my visit last week to the US and Canada, where I led a business delegation to meet trade associations, global banks, and startup fintech companies.
They were positive about the pro-business attitude of the current administration, and there was an overarching appetite for collaboration and development of our ties, as well as a strong commitment to the special relationship.
As part of the trip, I visited New York, Boston, Toronto and Chicago. Each of these cities have prominent financial hubs, but their areas of specialism vary.
Toronto is brimming with innovation and entrepreneurialism, leading to a well-established fintech sector, while Boston is a world-leader in asset management, with Chicago having a real focus on insuretech.
This is the same for the UK. Where Manchester has a thriving tech hub with a large back-office function, Leeds – which is just an hour’s drive away – has the second most prominent legal sector in the UK behind London.
A central aim of the visit was to build bridges between one city to the next, based on their individual strengths and specialisms; the objective to ultimately generate tangible relationships.
I’m delighted to report that one of the businesses that joined the delegation has already signed a new partnership with a firm based in Boston – a great result following a busy week in North America.
It was reassuring to hear how representatives from both America and Canada remain open and willing to engage with the UK – possibly more so now than ever before.
It is clear our friends across the Atlantic see us as a natural partner, and so I look forward to finding out what the future holds.