City Matters: The booming City cluster is driving growth across the whole of the UK

 
Fiona Woolf
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SPRING in Britain is in full flow as the May Day bank holiday fast approaches. And this year, the economic news matches the improving weather.
A new City of London Corporation report showed just last week that the Square Mile continues to play an important role in London’s ongoing success. The City is forecast to surpass its 2007 peak soon, as a result of adding over 40,000 new jobs by 2023. Productivity will also improve, with the City expected to increase Gross Value Added by 36 per cent over the same period. There is also great potential for new jobs in fast growing sectors such as technology, media and telecommunications. This is welcome news, as the growth of jobs in the City reflects the wider positive economic trends across the capital.
However, we mustn’t forget that London is not the only economic success story across the country. For every financial services job that London creates, two are added across the UK, in a symbiotic relationship with the City. This is why, as lord mayor and ambassador for the whole of the UK’s financial and professional services industry, it is so important to me that all the UK’s financial centres are able to succeed on the world stage. To that end, I visit as many regional financial centres as I can – previously Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and Cardiff and Bristol last week.
In every city I heard the same message: that the UK’s regional centres benefited from their proximity to London as a global financial centre – and that, by working even more closely together, we can enhance our competitive offer to global business, and create jobs and growth at home. It is central to my job as lord mayor to promote the City – but the expertise of these regional centres as well.
It is tremendously important to ensure that the City engages with these financial hubs, to better understand and champion the specialisms of individual cities. This diversity is crucial to sustaining the innovation and entrepreneurship which underpins the success of the UK financial and professional services cluster.
In Cardiff, for example, employment in financial services has grown by around 60 per cent over the last decade. Wales is now the European centre for some of the UK’s fastest growing businesses, such as insurance aggregators and comparison sites, and is also developing a reputation for specialities like corporate and legal services.
Bristol has the third largest cluster of financial services outside London, with almost 17,500 businesses calling it home – including more than a third of UK FTSE 100 companies. It also has a historical specialism in sustainable finance. And as the next generation of social investment, Islamic and other ethical financial products revolutionise the way we marry philanthropy and financial services, this wealth of knowledge will be invaluable to ensuring that the whole country works more profitably together to create business opportunities and growth for all parts of the UK. The cluster of services available in London can drive that growth. It is an exciting prospect – for London and for the UK as a whole.
Fiona Woolf is lord mayor of London.

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